Democrats Want to Delay Amy Coney Barrett Hearings After COVID Hits Judiciary Committee

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday night said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing should be delayed after two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee tested positive for COVID-19.

GOP Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina announced that they both tested positive for the coronavirus just days after attending an event with Barrett at the White House. Some attendees at the Saturday Rose Garden event—where President Donald Trump official nominated Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme court—were not wearing masks or following social distancing guidelines.

"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 Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Diane Feinstein wrote in a joint statement emailed to Newsweek.

Chuck Schumer
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday that after two Senate Judiciary Members tested positive for COVID-19, following the diagnosis of President Donald Trump, Amy Coney Barrett's hearing should be postponed. Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Lee said he took a COVID test on Thursday and will be isolating at home for at least 10 days. He insisted that he'll "be back at work" soon for Barrett's nomination and Senate vote.

Tillis, who tested positive on Friday evening, will also be isolating for 10 days.

"Over the last few months, I've been routinely tested for COVID-19, including testing negative last Saturday, but tonight my rapid antigen test came back positive," he explained.

The Democrats said the recent infections make it "even more clear that health and safety must guide the schedule for all Senate activities, including hearings."

"It's critical that Chairman Graham put the health of senators, the nominee, and staff first—and ensure a full and fair hearing that is not rushed, not truncated, and not virtual," they added. "Otherwise this already illegitimate process will become a dangerous one."

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham rejected Democratic calls to postpone Barrett's confirmation hearing. "I feel fine and look forward to the hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 12," he tweeted on Friday evening. "Any Senator who wants to participate virtually will be allowed to do so."

Schumer later reiterated his position in a separate statement shared to Twitter. "We now have two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who have tested positive for COVID, and there may be more. I wish my colleagues well," he wrote. "It is irresponsible and dangerous to move forward with a hearing, and there is absolutely no good reason to do so."

News about the Republicans' coronavirus infections comes just hours after President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump announced they had both tested positive for COVID-19 in the early hours of Friday.

The president will spend the next few days in Walter Reed Military Hospital while the first lady quarantines at the White House. The two members of the first family became infected after Hope Hicks, one of the president's closest aides, tested positive. They had traveled with the 31-year-old aboard Air Force One to the presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday.

Correction 10/5/20, 5:45 a.m. ET: This article was corrected to state that Chuck Schumer is Senate minority leader.

Democrats Want to Delay Amy Coney Barrett Hearings After COVID Hits Judiciary Committee | Politics