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Waters dedicates Congress’ relief plan to St. Louis sister dying of coronavirus

WASHINGTON – Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., dedicated Congress’s $484 billion relief package to her sister in St. Louis, who she said was dying from the coronavirus.

“I not only rise in support of this legislation,” Waters said on the House floor. “I also would like to rise in support of what we’re doing for the health care enhancement act in this bill. And I’m going to take a moment to dedicate this legislation to my dear sister who is dying in a hospital in St. Louis, Mo., right now, infected by the coronavirus.”

Waters was born in St. Louis, one of thirteen children raised by a single mother. Waters graduated from Vashon High School before moving with her family to Los Angeles in 1961.

She is in her 15th House term and is the most senior of the twelve black women currently serving in Congress. She chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 1997 to 1999 and is currently the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Waters isn’t the only member of Congress affected by the coronavirus.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., said she had just gotten a phone call. “Another dear friend of mine has passed,” she said. “I stand here today with my heart broken.”

And Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said her brother had died of the virus on Tuesday.

“It’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you’ one more time — and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close,” Warren tweeted.

If the coronavirus threat is waning, as President Donald Trump suggests, you wouldn’t know it by watching Congress.

The nation’s representatives chose overwhelmingly on Thursday to wear masks at their first meeting in a month, creating the defining visual of a Congress in the throes of the historic pandemic. There were exceptions — chiefly, a handful of Republicans who attended the session bare-faced.

But to walk around Capitol Hill as lawmakers returned was to see evidence that the rampaging virus had delivered the saddest possible lessons to members of Congress in the weeks since they last met on March 27. Then, gloves and masks were the exception as they approved the largest stimulus package in history. Lawmakers had to be reminded to shed the most Washington of customs — a firm handshake — for elbow bumps. Social distancing meant sitting in every other seat on the House floor.

No more. Arriving lawmakers on Thursday found gloves and masks waiting for them on tables outside the chamber doors. Inside, flyers laid on chairs kept sitters four seats apart. And when it came time to vote, members were to show up in alphabetical order, filing in specific doors and out others.

The result was a bracing sight of Congress doing the nation’s business in a variety of masks — from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a white silken scarf to the clerks and aides scattered about the room.

Lawmakers made the trip back to Washington to approve the latest coronavirus relief bill, a nearly $500 billion package speeding money to small businesses and hospitals.

Work started with Pelosi entering the Capitol at the center of her security entourage, silken scarf perched on the bridge of her nose.

Across the street, lawmakers arrived to testify before the Small Business Committee only to be ushered into an office across the hall. There, they checked in, were handed a sign with their name on it and were escorted to specific seats in the hearing room, which was festooned with signs urging everyone to stay “six feet apart.” Staffers quickly wiped down everything in between speakers.

The House, meanwhile, opened for business for the first time in weeks. Among the dozens of members present, only two were not wearing masks: Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and James Comer of Kentucky. Both are Republicans.

“I didn’t take a mask for somebody who needs it more,” said Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., another non-mask-wearer outside the hearing. “There’s a shortage of masks, haven’t you heard?” staff contributed to this report.

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