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From masks to money, Sen. Cornyn is answering COVID-19 questions

Anastasiya Bolton went one-on-one with the Senator, who's back to work in D.C.
Credit: KHOU

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate is back in session this week.

Senator John Cornyn shares with us whether he plans to wear a mask, what he has to say to those Americans protesting the wearing of face coverings and what to do with the CARES Act money your dead loved one may have received.

Question: Following the advice of Congressional physician Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the House is delaying coming back. Why not the Senate?

"Well, my attitude is if the grocery clerks and the doctors, nurses on the front lines of this fight and our first responders can go to work. So can the Senate. And we'll do it the same way we all should do, that’s taking personal responsibility for washing your hands and not touching things and then touching your face and then where necessary, wear personal protective equipment like a mask and then maintain social distancing. So I'm confident that we can function, albeit in a modified manner, and follow those guidelines and be safe."

Question: Have you tested for COVID19?

"I've been tested twice, and the only reason that I've been tested is because I've been in the presence of the President of the United States at the White House. So if you go over to the White House for a meeting with the president, they will take your temperature before you get on the campus. Then they'll do a nasal swab and one of those quick tests. And then before you go into the cabinet room, then they will take your temperature again. And so, yes, I have ordinarily, since I'm not symptomatic. I would not have qualified under CDC guidelines for tests. But yes, I have been twice."

Question: Do you plan to wear a mask?

"I've got a I've got a couple of them. I've been trying them out to different kinds. But yes, any time can’t maintain six feet of social distancing, I intend to wear that. As you know, it doesn't really protect you because it doesn't strain out the virus. But what it does protects others. And I think it's a sign of respect for others to do. If you can't maintain that social distancing, obviously, if you can, then a mask isn’t going to make any difference."

Question: What is your message to folks protesting the use of facial coverings?

"Well, they have a right under the First Amendment to protest. But I think the best thing we can do is try to try to have good information about why that is important. But again, I'm not talking about mandatory masks, even where social distancing is acceptable. I'm talking about masks where social distancing is not possible, which is what the Center for Disease Control guidelines say. I think there has been some misunderstanding by some officials that you should wear a mask in your room when you're the only one there. Well, that didn't make any sense at all. So I think trying to get good information in people's hands so they can understand why they're being asked to take these measures is really important."

Question: Who’s going to pay back the trillion dollar aid package Congress has passed?

"But during war and this is in essence a war against this virus, we have to do things we ordinarily wouldn't do in an emergency. And that involves a lot of deficit spending and debt. But we are going to have to come to terms with this. And at some point, I think part of what we ought to do is part of this pandemic review process. We've got an oversight committee appointed to review our preparation and our response. It ought to include the financial impact on our economy and on our future. Because you're right. Somebody is going to have to pay that money back. But I don't think we had any choice but to rise to the to the emergency and the challenge. But it's the only responsible thing to do once we defeat this virus is to take a look at that and see what the consequences are and take measures to reduce that those deficits and that debt, because that will limit our ability to respond financially to future crises that we know there will be one or more. And it also is an unfair burden on future generations. So that's the only responsible thing to do to look at that as part of this overall response and after action review."

Question: What is on the Senate's agenda now that you’re back in D.C.? 

"We have a number of nominees that relate to our ability to respond to these kinds of crises that we have some nominations that have been delayed previously. Tomorrow we have a hearing on the new director of national intelligence. I served on the Intelligence Committee. So John Ratcliffe, a Texan, has been nominated for that position. And I'm sure we'll have a number of other issues. We will have committee hearings where we can talk about future legislation and things that we need to be doing as a country. This is what self-government is all about. We’re delegated the authority and given the responsibility to represent 330 million people. And so we need to be doing our job and be seen doing our job, albeit in a safe and modified way." 

Question: What should Texans who are getting their dead relatives’ CARES Act money do with it?  

"There's been millions of these mailed out and they're bound to be mistakes. I did get contacted by a friend of mine who said her mother died a year ago and they received a check and she said, I'm sending it back, but I wanted you to know. So hopefully you we can no limit of that happening and encourage people who do it to get them by mistake to get that back to the Treasury, because that's not that's not what Congress intended when we appropriated the money, to be sure. 

If you're not entitled to the money, give it back to the Treasury. And that's the best policy. And if anybody's having problems or has questions, they can always go to my website, Cornyn.senate.gov. And there's contact information there call the local office and or my DC office. And we'll be glad to try to provide some additional guidance."

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