Mitch McConnell: US Senate won’t be in session this week — but confirmation hearings will go ahead as planned
While President Donald Trump is hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center with COVID-19, many of his Republican allies in the U.S. Senate are in quarantine — and three of them have tested for the novel coronavirus: Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to the New York Times, has announced that the U.S. Senate will not be meeting as planned this week. But McConnell also said that Republicans still plan to proceed rapidly with the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an official statement, McConnell declared, "The Senate's floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out."
Tillis, who is fighting a tough battle for reelection in North Carolina, and Lee are both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee — which is chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The Senate's most high-ranking Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is stressing that given all the COVID-19 infections GOP senators are facing, it's dangerous to proceed with Senate Judiciary hearings for Barrett — which are scheduled to begin next week on Monday, October 12. Schumer, in an official statement, warned, "If it's too dangerous to have the Senate in session, it is also too dangerous for committee hearings to continue. Leader McConnell and Chairman Graham's monomaniacal drive to confirm Judge Barrett at all costs needlessly threatens the health and safety of senators, staff and all those who work in the capitol complex."
On September 26, Republicans held a ceremony for Barrett's nomination in the White House Rose Garden — and some of the Republicans who attended have tested positive for COVID-19, including Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway (who has been helping Trump with debate preparation). Times reporters Catie Edmondson, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Lisa Lerer note that "many top Republicans attended" that ceremony "without masks or social distancing, raising concerns that others might have contracted the virus but had not yet been diagnosed." And Monday morning, October 5 on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski noted that the September 26 ceremony in the White House Rose Garden was followed by an indoor event in which few masks were worn and there was a painfully obvious lack of social distancing. That indoor event, Scarborough and Brzezinski stressed, was even more dangerous than the gathering in the Rose Garden because it was indoors.
Graham, like McConnell, has said that the Senate Judiciary hearings for Barrett's confirmation will begin on October 12 as planned. The Times reporters note, "Mr. Tillis and Mr. Lee said they would isolate for ten days, which would enable them to emerge in time for the hearings."