WASHINGTON (AP) — Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator and third in the line of presidential succession, is back in the Senate on Monday after testing positive for coronavirus two weeks ago.
Grassley, 87, isolated after finding out he had been exposed to the virus and tested positive shortly after that. He said in a statement that he never had any symptoms and had been cleared to return to the office by his doctors.
“This disease affects people differently,” Grassley said. “I did not experience symptoms, but more than a thousand Americans are dying every day and many more are hospitalized. That means we all have to do our part to help protect our friends, family and fellow Americans.”
Grassley is the president pro tempore of the Senate, meaning he presides over the chamber in the absence of Vice President Mike Pence and is third in line for the presidency, behind Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The president pro tempore is the senator in the majority party who has served the longest, and Grassley has been a senator for 40 years.
As pro tempore, Grassley opens the Senate each day. He did so on the day before he started isolating, leading the Pledge of Allegiance alongside others on the floor and then giving remarks without wearing a mask. He also joined other senators on the floor later Monday evening for a procedural vote on a federal judge, that time wearing a mask but speaking to several senators at close distance.
In his statement upon his return, Grassley said he would “continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing.”
He also urged the Senate to pass long-stalled relief for those affected by the virus, saying that “Congress must do its part and pass long overdue relief legislation to help families, businesses and communities get through this crisis.”
Grassley was one of several members of Congress who tested positive in recent weeks. Florida Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced that he had tested positive two days after Grassley. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who is competing in a Senate runoff in Georgia, later announced that she had tested positive and then negative.
Alaska Rep. Don Young, also 87 and the longest-serving member of the House, was hospitalized with the virus. The Republican said after he was discharged that “I had not felt this sick in a very long time.”