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How Sen. Durbin’s COVID diagnosis affects the workings of the US Senate

File photo of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., talking to reporters on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

WASHINGTON – For the third time in a year, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has tested positive for COVID-19. While it may not seem like a big deal for him to work from home, here’s how will his absence affects the workings of the United States Senate.

Durbin, 78, is the Number Two Democrat in the US Senate. This makes him the assistant leader of the Senate and Senate Majority Whip. So when he announced via Twitter that he had tested positive for COVID, his colleagues were a bit shaken, especially since this is the third time he’s had the virus in the past year. Durbin is vaxed and boosted and says he’s experiencing only minor symptoms.

In his Tweet, the senator wrote that he is disappointed to miss critical work in the Senate, like the debate and vote on the National Defense Authorization Act. He also said that he will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and quarantine at home while he works remotely.

Working remotely means he can confer with staff and colleagues from home; but he cannot be in the Capitol complex for committee hearings or votes. Senate rules do not allow for remote or proxy voting.

Presently, Democrats hold a 51 to 49 majority in the Senate; not exactly razor thin but certainly thin enough for the party to become concerned about whether it can pass any legislation on the floor.

Senator Durbin’s also serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the committee that recently sent a Supreme Court Ethics bill to the full Senate for a vote. As chairman of that committee, he would be responsible for directing the floor debate.

Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to go out of town at the end of this week, for the entire month of August. So, Senator Durbin won’t be missing just a week, he’ll be missing a whole lot more.

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