Even McConnell isn't comfortable with Team Trump's COVID protocols

McConnell effectively said the White House has been so careless during the pandemic that he feared walking into the West Wing would put his health at risk.
Image: Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on July 20, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

On practically every issue, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is a relentless partisan who toes the Republican Party's line. But when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kentucky senator, who was treated for polio as a child, has exercised far greater caution than many of his GOP brethren.

In fact, McConnell hasn't set foot in the White House in months, and yesterday he explained why.

Speaking at an event in Erlanger, Kentucky, McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, suggested he didn't think the Trump administration had been doing enough to keep the White House safe from Covid-19. "I haven't actually been to the White House since August the 6th, because my impression was their approach to how to handle this is different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing," McConnell said.

It's probably not realistic to expect the GOP leader to publicly condemn the White House's record of indifference toward safety protocols, but his willingness to call out an approach that was "different" from his wasn't exactly subtle.

The Senate leader went on to say, "If any of you have been around me since May the 1st, I've said, 'Wear your mask. Practice social distancing.'" It's the only way that we know of to prevent the spread until we get a vaccine. And we practice that in the Senate. Now, you've heard of other places that have had a different view, and they are, you know, paying the price for it."

McConnell didn't specify where these "other places" might be, but given the context, it sounded as if Congress' top Republican was admonishing the White House for its failure to take COVID-19 seriously.

And that's no small acknowledgement for the senator to make. In effect, McConnell said that the Trump White House has been so careless during the pandemic that he feared walking into the West Wing would put his health at risk. The Senate majority leader not only believes this; he felt comfortable sharing these concerns with the public.

Whether the Kentuckian -- facing a re-election fight this year -- would be equally willing to make these comments if Trump were cruising to a second term is an open question.

But hanging overhead is the question McConnell hasn't yet answered: if he recognizes the seriousness of the public-health crisis, why hasn't his legislative chamber spent the last several months working on pandemic-related legislation?