Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it won’t be safe for the Senate to move ahead with Supreme Court hearings for Amy Coney Barrett given the virus outbreak that has sickened three Republican senators.
While acknowledging that Democrats can’t block the hearings, he said they plan to use “every tool in the toolbox” to try to delay a final confirmation vote for President Donald Trump’s nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the hearings would go forward as scheduled Oct. 12 and senators could attend remotely. Two members of the committee — Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — have tested positive for Covid-19, as well as a third Republican, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
McConnell has said he plans to seek a two-week recess of the full Senate for all but brief pro-forma sessions. He is likely to get bipartisan consent for the plan on Monday, according to a Senate aide.
“If it’s not safe for the Senate to be in session, it’s not safe for the hearings to go forward,” Schumer said at a press conference in New York.
Schumer said holding the hearings would endanger senators and staff, and he dismissed virtual hearings as insufficient for a lifetime appointment that he said could cast deciding votes on ending abortion rights, protections for pre-existing health conditions and more.
Schumer also said McConnell has blocked a coronavirus testing plan for all senators and staff at the Capitol.
“I have asked McConnell repeatedly that all of our senators and staff get testing,” but McConnell has resisted, Schumer said. “I think he is very, very wrong.”
McConnell on Friday in Kentucky dismissed a question about Schumer’s call for a testing regime, saying that the Senate had been successfully following CDC recommendations.
Schumer also demanded “full transparency” about the health of the president and others at the White House who have been infected with the virus. Schumer pointed to the “super spreader” Rose Garden ceremony for Barrett eight days ago as an example of risky behavior he said Trump had repeatedly encouraged and participated in.
“Loads of people, sitting closely together for long periods of time, with no masks, most of them,” Schumer said. “In fact, when they were inside, they were encouraged to take off their masks.”
— With assistance by Laura Litvan
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