Senate COVID-19 cases make Supreme Court hearings dangerous, Schumer says

  • Moving forward with hearings and a vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation would endanger senators and staff to COVID-19, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a Sunday press conference.
  • Three Republican Senators have tested positive for the coronavirus recently, including two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Moving forward with the confirmation process "makes no sense," and is "not safe," Schumer said in a press conference.
  • A virtual hearing would rob Senators of the chance to question Amy Coney Barrett face-to-face, Schumer added.
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that recent COVID-19 infections among senators make moving forward with Republicans' nomination of Amy Coney Barrett unsafe.

Senators Mike Lee of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have all tested positive for the coronavirus since President Donald Trump announced his diagnosis early Friday morning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he will move forward with Barrett's confirmation but also plans to enact a two-week recess in response to the infections.

The schedule "makes no sense," and Democrats will use "every tool in the toolbox" to prevent a confirmation vote, Schumer said in a press conference.

"He has said it's not safe for the Senate to meet in session, but it's 'ok' to have the hearings," he said. "If it's not safe for the Senate to meet in session, it's not safe for the hearings to move forward."

In-person hearings would also pose considerable health risks to Senate staff, Schumer said. Congress doesn't yet employ universal COVID-19 testing for members, staffers, or the press. McConnell said Friday that the Senate has been adhering to CDC guidelines and set aside calls for testing on Capitol Hill.

Tillis and Lee both serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and McConnell has also said the hearings for Barrett's confirmation can be attended remotely. While legislators have used virtual hearings for other matters throughout the pandemic, doing so robs the Senate of questioning a nominee who will steer decisions on matters such as abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act, Schumer said.

"A virtual hearing is virtually no hearing at all," the minority leader added.

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