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Ted Cruz calls Democratic senator an 'ass' following Senate floor mask dispute
AP

Ted Cruz calls Democratic senator an 'ass' following Senate floor mask dispute

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Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Monday called Sen. Sherrod Brown "a complete ass" following a tense dispute over mask wearing on the Senate floor between the Ohio Democrat and Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan.

The dispute, captured in a video clip that has now gone viral, took place when Brown asked Sullivan to wear a mask while speaking as he presided over the Senate, a request that Sullivan refused to comply with.

Brown, who wore a mask as he spoke, said, "I'd start by asking the presiding officer to please wear a mask as he speaks." Sullivan, who was not wearing a mask, responded tersely, "I don't wear a mask when I'm speaking, like most senators, I don't need your instruction."

Cruz criticized Brown over the incident in a tweet on Monday, writing, "This is idiotic. @SherrodBrown is being a complete ass. He wears a mask to speak—when nobody is remotely near him—as an ostentatious sign of fake virtue."

The Texas Republican went on to say that Sullivan was "over 50 feet away" from his fellow senator, adding "last I checked 50 feet is more than 6 feet." However, Cruz's tweet was misleading, as Brown seemed to be referring to the staffers who were just a few feet away from Sullivan while he was maskless.

The series of events marks the latest flare-up on Capitol Hill over mask wearing and comes amid a deadly nationwide surge in coronavirus cases. A number of members of Congress have either tested positive or gone into quarantine following Covid-19 exposure in recent days.

The office of Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa announced Tuesday morning that he was exposed to Covid-19 and will immediately quarantine as a result.

Grassley, who as president pro tempore is the most senior Republican in the chamber, is 87 years old, putting him at a vulnerable age for contracting the virus. The Iowa Republican spoke on the Senate floor on Monday and was seen at the Capitol speaking to reporters Monday afternoon.

Brown tweeted after the incident Monday, "I asked my Republican colleagues to stop endangering all the Senate workers - and simply wear a mask when presiding over the Senate."

In his comments directed at Sullivan on the Senate floor, the Ohio Democrat pointed out that there are "people below him," as he speaks.

He went on to say, "there clearly isn't much interest in this body in public health."

Since the pandemic has begun, there have been many occasions during which senators do not appear to be adequately socially distant on the Senate floor, especially during votes.

A CNN review of hours of footage from September 29 through October 1 showed senators often crowding one another -- face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder -- and carrying on extended conversations in the chamber.

CNN's Ali Main and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.

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