Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have all seized on the coronavirus as a reason to delay the confirmation process for President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.
Schumer said on Friday that the Republicans’ plan to start confirmation hearings on October 12 is unrealistic given the overnight news that President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus. Schumer said in a statement:
The infection of the president, first lady and a close aide require that the White House immediately conduct a contact tracing regime that follows C.D.C. guidelines, as well as thorough testing and isolation for those who were exposed to infection risk. That includes Judge Amy Coney Barrett and anyone she was in contact with. It must also include people in the Senate with whom those individuals came into contact with, and their contacts.
News reports have said that Barrett already had been diagnosed with the virus but recovered and a recent test came back negative.
Roll Call reported on Friday that Schumer and Feinstein were seizing on the virus as a reason to delay any kind of action on Barrett’s confirmation, including the fact that their colleague, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who is on the judiciary committee, also has tested positive for the virus and is self-isolating for 10 days:
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, cited the Lee test as reason to delay the confirmation hearings for Barrett and said virtual hearings would not be acceptable.
“It is premature for Chairman Graham to commit to a hearing schedule when we do not know the full extent of potential exposure stemming from the president’s infection and before the White House puts in place a contact tracing plan to prevent further spread of the disease,” Schumer and Feinstein said in a news release. The Democrats said:
“The unfortunate news about the infection of our colleague Senator Mike Lee makes even more clear that health and safety must guide the schedule for all Senate activities, including hearings. In addition, there is bipartisan agreement that a virtual confirmation hearing for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench is not an acceptable substitute.”
Lee has said he will be back to work in time for the Barrett hearings.
Blumenthal said the Senate will have to make a decision on how to hold committee hearings and other proceedings. Members of the public are already typically not permitted to attend hearings; the Senate Judiciary Committee has been meeting in a larger room than normal to allow for physical distancing, and both nominees and senators have appeared virtually.
“I think at a minimum there needs to be mask-wearing, physical distancing, handwashing, and precautions to prioritize what is most necessary for us to do, and I believe that the next president and the next Senate ought to be the ones deciding the next justice, wholly apart from the constraints imposed by this pandemic,” Blumenthal said.
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