Mitch McConnell Won't Say If He's Been Tested Recently for COVID, Expects Senators to Return Monday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will be back Monday to consider five U.S. District Court nominations, but declined to say whether he's been tested recently for COVID-19—despite three GOP senators and President Donald Trump announcing they were infected as of Saturday morning.

Update: McConnell issued a statement Saturday afternoon delaying floor activity until after October 19, but said the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin Supreme Court justice confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett as scheduled starting next Monday, October 12.

"Have I ever been tested? Yes," asked the Kentucky senator, as reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader. "I'm not going to answer questions about when. We are following the guidelines that we've been given by the CDC." McConnell also dismissed questions about whether the Senate hearings of 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett and five judges in Ohio, Florida and Kansas would proceed normally.

Speaking to reporters at a Kentucky event Friday, the top Senate Republican said he expects his colleagues to be back in Washington Monday despite several coronavirus infections being tied to a recent Barrett Supreme Court nomination event. McConnell is under a stringent timeline in order to confirm Barrett before Election Day, with three senators testing positive and placing doubts on whether the process can move forward so quickly.

Several top Republicans, including Trump, were all in attendance—and predominately not wearing masks—at last weekend's White House announcement of Barrett's nomination.

"We've been operating in the same environment now since the 1st of May and been able to do Senate business. There's no reason why we can't continue to do that," McConnell told a reporter Friday at an event in Kentucky, Roll Call reported. "[The pandemic] has not kept us from operating as we would normally, and there's no reason to expect that to be the case in the foreseeable future."

Should Senate Democrats boycott the Senate Judiciary Committee vote expected later this month, Republicans may not have a quorum should both Lee and Tillis be unable to attend. Two other GOP senators, Lisa Murkowski of of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have both stated they are not in favor of any pre-election confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee.

"We can move forward. Our biggest enemy obviously is ... the coronavirus, keeping everybody healthy and well and in place to do our job," McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt. "We don't anticipate any kind of unanticipated event that could throw us off schedule."

McConnell's refusal to discuss whether or not he's been tested recently for COVID-19 comes as two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, announced they tested positive just days after a maskless nomination event for Barrett. Another senator, Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, announced Saturday morning he tested positive for the virus.

"I will be following the recommendations of my doctor and will be self-isolating at home for 10 days and notifying those I've been in close contact with. Thankfully, I have no symptoms and I feel well. As we all know, COVID-19 is a very contagious and deadly virus, especially because many carriers are asymptomatic," Tillis said in a statement Friday, hours after McConnell rebuked the idea the Senate would not meet back in Washington Monday for business-as-usual.

"Obviously, there are a few hiccups along the way here, but if everything stays on schedule, stays on track, we can set up to have a vote at the conclusion of the hearings," said Senate Majority Whip John Thune, in an interview Friday on Fox News.

Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation hearings are set to begin October 12 and Senate Republicans have said McConnell expects to vote on Barrett before the end of the month, just days before the November 3 election. The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee tasked with confirming Barrett, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, tweeted Friday that he'd tested negative for COVID-19. Graham said the two senators who earlier tested positive must be back by October 15 and that any senator who tested positive is expected to return for the committee vote on October 22.

"Just finished a great phone call with @POTUS. He's in good spirits and we talked business — especially how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett. Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve," McConnell tweeted Friday.

Newsweek reached out to McConnell's Kentucky offices Saturday morning for additional remarks and updates.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the senate will be back Monday to consider five U.S. District Court nominations, but declined to say whether he's been tested recently for COVID-19 despite two GOP senators announcing they were infected Friday. DREW ANGERER / Staff/Getty Images