MITCHELL, S.D. — U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., returned to South Dakota late Wednesday, March 25, after falling ill in Washington, D.C., earlier in the day, according to the senator's office.
Out of what his office described as "an abundance of caution," Thune returned to Sioux Falls after consulting with physicians in Washington and in South Dakota. The illness forced Thune, who serves as majority whip in the Senate, to miss votes on the $2 trillion stimulus package related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate passed the measure 96-0 late Wednesday.
“I unfortunately had to miss today’s votes — something I’ve rarely done during my time in Congress. I felt under the weather this morning and, out of an abundance of caution, thought it was the responsible decision to avoid contact with my colleagues on Capitol Hill," Thune said in a statement. "Rest assured, I’ve been in touch with the attending physician at the Capitol and with my doctor in Sioux Falls — both of whom advised that self-quarantine was not required. Again, out of an abundance of caution, and in accordance with the advice I’ve been giving South Dakotans, I decided that avoiding others was the best option.”
Thune's Republican colleague, Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, revealed Sunday that he had tested positive for coronavirus, while fellow senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both R-Utah, have self-quarantined after having recent contact with Paul. All three were not able to participate in the Senate discussions on the funding package, which has been hotly discussed this week in Washington.
The House is expected to pass the bill later this week, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it. The proposal is most noted for providing direct cash payments of up to $1,200 for most individual taxpayers and $2,400 for married couples who file taxes jointly, with an additional $500 per each eligible child. The bill will also support unemployment programs, delay employer-related payroll taxes and put forward more than $100 billion in funds toward health care workers fighting the virus.
Ryan Wrasse, Thune's communications director, said on Twitter that Thune took a charter flight from Washington to Sioux Falls and was one of two passengers, along with a U.S. Capitol Police security detail member.
"Out of an abundance of caution, he wore a mask for the duration of the flight," Wrasse wrote.
Thune, 59, has served in the Senate since 2005, following his 2004 election victory over then-majority leader Tom Daschle. He was uncontested in the 2010 election cycle and won easily in 2016.
In a statement late Wednesday, Thune noted his role as a key negotiator in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.
“Challenging times require swift and bold action from the federal government,” Thune said. “That’s why I’m glad the Senate was able to rise above politics and act in a bipartisan way to provide much-needed relief to the American people. The CARES Act will put emergency cash into the hands of American families and workers who need it the most, and it will deliver relief to small businesses to help them and their workers weather this storm. It will take meaningful steps to help stabilize an uneasy economy, provide significant resources to support state unemployment programs, and most importantly, it will continue to deliver resources to the health care workers fighting to stop this pandemic."
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