Democrats warn Supreme Court confirmation would endanger senators’ health, call for delay

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are warning Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that he is putting his colleagues’ health in jeopardy by moving ahead with Supreme Court confirmation hearings, which are scheduled to start Oct. 12.

All ten Democrats on the Senate Judiciary panel are calling on Graham to delay confirmation proceedings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett after two Republicans on the committee, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), tested positive for COVID-19.

Other Republican members of the committee were present at a White House Rose Garden event on Saturday, Sept. 26, when President Trump announced Barrett’s nomination. 

“To proceed at this juncture with a hearing to consider Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court threatens the health and safety of all those who are called upon to do the work of this body,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary, and nine other Democrats, wrote in a letter to Graham Saturday.

The senators noted that “two members of this committee have already contracted COVID-19” and several other senators were “in close proximity” to them in recent days.

“As you aware, the CDC has advised that individuals ‘[s]tay home for 14 days after last contact with a person who has COVID-19,’ even if those individuals ‘test negative for COVID-19 or feel healthy,’” the Democrats wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced earlier on Saturday that while he will postpone the Senate returning to Washington until Oct. 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings will proceed as scheduled.

“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair, and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out by Chairman Graham,” McConnell said.

The GOP leader asserted that the Judiciary Committee has “operated flawlessly through a hybrid method” during which some senators have appeared in person at hearings while others have participated by video link-up.

“The committee has utilized this format successfully for many months while protecting the health and safety of all involved,” McConnell said in a statement.

“Certainly all Republican members of the committee will participate in these important hearings.”

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee complained to Graham on Saturday that “holding a remote hearing for a Supreme Court nomination is not an adequate substitute.”

“As Republican members of this committee have recognized, questioning nominees by video is ineffective and ignores the gravity of our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on lifetime appointments, particularly those to the nation’s highest court,” they wrote.

The Judiciary Committee’s rules allow for proxy voting, which means that even if Lee and Tillis are still contagious or not feeling well when the committee convenes to report Barrett’s nomination to the floor, colleagues can cast proxy votes on their behalf.

The panel’s rules state: “When a recorded vote is taken in the committee on any bill, resolution, amendment, or any other question, a quorum being present, members who are unable to attend the meeting may submit votes by proxy, in writing or by telephone, or through personal instructions.”

Senate Democrats have called on Graham and other Republicans to delay the confirmation process since the evening of Sept. 18, when late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was announced.

Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have argued forcefully since that moment that the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election should pick Ginsburg’s successor. Political handicappers rate Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, as the likely winner. 

Tags Amy Coney Barrett Charles Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Pandemic Ruth Bader Ginsburg SCOTUS Senate Judiciary Committee Supreme Court nomination Thom Tillis Vote By Proxy

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