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WASHINGTON – Although the Senate will not return to session until October 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing forward the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court as scheduled next week.

The timeline of Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing was questioned Friday after two Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee tested positive for COVID-19: Utah’s Mike Lee and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis. Both attended a Rose Garden ceremony announcing President Donald Trump’s choice of Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the high court. Several people present, including the president, have since tested positive for COVID-19.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday in a statement that he will get a consensus agreement for the full Senate session to be out for another two weeks. But Republican leaders have argued that the four-day scheduled hearings for Barrett will begin as scheduled on October 12. Democrats urged to delay hearings at least until election day.

McConnell said in his statement that “the important work of the Senate committees can and will continue as any committee sees fit.”

“Since May, the judicial committee has operated flawlessly through a hybrid method that has seen some senators physically appear at its hearings while other members have attended virtually,” McConnell said. “The Committee has been using this format successfully for many months, protecting the health and safety of all involved. Certainly all the Republican members of the committee will participate in these important hearings. “

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But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged McConnell to delay the hearings, saying at a press conference on Sunday that “if he’s not sure if the Senate will meet in session, he’s not sure if the hearings will go ahead.”

Schumer said holding hearings endangers senators and members of their staff, and he doesn’t believe Barrett could be adequately scrutinized through a virtual hearing.

“There is no reason on God’s green earth why they shouldn’t be delayed, other than an effort to get a witness through inadequately, where people can’t even see the witness face to face,” Schumer said.

Republicans united on support for confirmation hearings

The chair of the judicial committee, Senator Lindsey Graham, said on Saturday that Barrett will be confirmed “safely”.

“We will have a hearing for Amy Barrett, the Supreme Court nominee. It will be done safely,” Graham said during a debate with his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison. “But I have a job to do and I’m moving on.”

Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Who is not a member of the judicial committee, said on Sunday that hearings could be held online, as have 20 other committee hearings this year.

“The hearing is going on, no doubt in my mind, starting a week from (Monday),” Cotton told Fox News “Sunday Morning Futures”. “I think that any senator who tested positive or in isolation will return to work, under normal conditions, as other senators have been.”

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to answer reporters’ questions Friday about whether he has been tested for COVID-19 since attending an event at the White House last Saturday. (2nd October)

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Cotton also predicted that Barrett would be confirmed by the end of October and noted that senators in past years have voted despite serious disturbances.

“There is a long tradition of sick or medically ill senators being brought in to cast critical votes in the Senate chamber,” Cotton said. “Most recently, (late West Virginia Democratic Senator) Robert Byrd repeatedly pushed himself into a wheelchair a few months before his death in 2009 to vote for Obamacare.”

“I am confident that every senator will be there when his vote is needed,” he continued.

Can the Democrats do anything to delay?

Asked if there are now procedural options for Democrats to delay hearings now with two senators diagnosed with COVID-19, Schumer said they have no options to delay hearings, but “we will have many more procedural options when it comes to a vote in the Senate committee and a vote in the hall, and we will use all the tools in the toolbox to delay and not cause the votes to occur. “

Schumer also called on the public to pressure senators who have COVID-19 and those who do not to delay hearings.

“We should delay these hearings so that we can have a full and fair hearing, not something about Zoom,” Schumer said. “This falls short when you have the most important appointment the Senate makes for a lifetime.”

Other Democrats have joined the call for the hearings to be postponed, including Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, who said it should be postponed until after the November 3 election.

“We should let the people decide,” Klobuchar told Fox News on Sunday. “Decide who the president is after these elections and let them choose the candidate.”

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Like Schumer, Klobuchar warned that it is possible that more senators will fall ill, after Republicans reunited with Trump and others who were later found to be infected.

“I don’t know why you would have rammed this Supreme Court hearing, putting people in danger because it would have been within that two-week period,” Klobuchar said. “I just think it’s wrong. We are suggesting to wait. “

Although the judicial commission has held other virtual hearings, Klobuchar said, it shouldn’t be the case for a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Klobuchar said he had helped organize previous virtual hearings, but said the senators need an opportunity to exchange with the candidate in their questions about the Affordable Care Act and other issues.

“Absolutely not. This is for the highest court in the country,” Klobuchar said. “Again, we think you should have an in-person hearing.”

Contributing: Bart Jansen

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