October 5, 2020

Democrat Leaders Call to Delay Supreme Court Nominee Hearings After Two Senators Test Positive for COVID-19

Sen. Mike Lee (UT-R)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham originally planned confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to take place on Oct. 12. After two Republican Senators tested positive for COVID-19, the potential for these hearings to be delayed has grown. 

Republican Senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis of the Senate Judiciary Committee tested positive for COVID-19. Both senators made announcements on Oct. 2 that they would be self-isolating for 10 days as a result. Lee said that he assured Senate leadership he would “be back to work in time to join my Judiciary Committee colleagues in advancing the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Committee and then to the full Senate.” Senator Tillis did not comment on how his isolation might affect the nomination process.

In response to the news, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein released a statement on Friday asking Graham not to commit to a hearing schedule.

“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.” they wrote. “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.”

Opponents to Amy Coney Barrett's nomination have suddenly decided that it would be inappropriate to hold hearings regarding her full appointment, but it is still unclear whether this will have any effect on the process. If votes go along party lines in the Senate, Republicans could lose three out of their 53 votes and successfully nominate Barrett to the court. 50 Republican votes would allow Vice President Mike Pence to break the tie, likely in favor of the nominee.

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