Sen. Grassley Tests Positive For COVID-19

By Stephen Cooper
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Law360 (November 17, 2020, 11:58 AM EST) -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, the Senate's top tax writer, tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and will work virtually from his home under quarantine, the Iowa Republican announced Tuesday.

It is unclear what effect Grassley's absence will have on negotiations for coronavirus relief or tax extenders legislation, both of which involve the Finance Committee. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Grassley, R-Iowa, said he was following his physician's orders and would not return to Capitol Hill to protect his health and others' from the airborne virus. His absence allowed Senate Democrats to block a procedural vote to begin considering Judy Shelton's nomination to the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, which is opposed by Senate Democrats and several GOP lawmakers.

In a statement, Grassley said he learned of his exposure to the coronavirus, took a COVID-19 test and immediately began to quarantine.

"While I still feel fine, the test came back positive for the coronavirus," said Grassley, who plans to follow federal health guidelines.

"I appreciate everyone's well wishes and prayers, and look forward to resuming my normal schedule when I can," he said. "In the meantime, my offices across Iowa and in Washington remain open and ready to serve Iowans."

Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a 14-day quarantine for anyone coming within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more of someone who has COVID-19.

Due to his age, the 87-year-old chairman is in the CDC's high-risk group for developing complications from COVID-19, which is responsible for nearly 250,000 deaths nationwide. Grassley, the Senate's president pro tempore, is third in the line of presidential succession behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is 80 years old.

It's unclear what impact Grassley's physical absence from Washington will have on negotiations around a coronavirus pandemic relief package or passage of year-end tax extenders legislation, both of which include provisions that fall under the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee.

Grassley, one of the chief architects of the GOP's 2017 tax overhaul law that cut corporate and individual tax rates, is widely expected to step down from chairmanship of the tax-writing panel and take the gavel of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year.

During his time atop the Finance Committee, Grassley has championed tax breaks for ethanol producers, a rewrite of retirement tax law and ongoing investigations into federal whistleblower cases.

Grassley is the latest congressional lawmaker forced to work from home due to the virus, either because of testing positive for the disease or coming into contact with someone who did.

Monday, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., said they tested positive, and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., said he was exposed to the virus and would quarantine himself. Last week, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who is 87 years old and is the longest-serving member of the House, said he tested positive for the virus.

--Editing by Vincent Sherry. 

Update: This story has been updated with more background about Grassley.

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