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Senate leaves town for two weeks amid coronavirus outbreak

Senate leaves town for two weeks amid coronavirus outbreak
© Bonnie Cash

The Senate on Monday left town until Oct. 19 after President TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE and three GOP senators tested positive for the coronavirus.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMinimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE (R-Ky.) to adjourn the Senate, absent brief pro forma sessions, is the first time the GOP leader has decided to keep the chamber out of town due to the virus since they reconvened in early May after a weeks-long break.

Even though the Senate will be out of town until Oct. 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee is still expected to start a days-long hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination on Oct. 12.

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"We are full steam ahead with a fair through and timely confirmation process," McConnell said from the Senate floor on Monday.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamJohn Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report Parliamentarian nixes minimum wage hike in coronavirus bill McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE (R-S.C.) on Monday officially scheduled the Oct. 12 hearing start for Barrett's confirmation.

But McConnell is eager to keep the Senate out of town, reducing the risk that additional senators could test positive for the coronavirus as he's turning his attention to trying to confirm President Trump's Supreme Court nominee later this month.

Three GOP senators — Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general GOP senators demand probe into Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths CNN anchor confronts GOP chairman over senator's vote to convict Trump MORE (R-N.C.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Haaland on drilling lease moratorium: 'It's not going to be a permanent thing' Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (R-Utah) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonCruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director Pelosi: Dems want commission focused on Capitol mob attack Pelosi jokes about Sen. 'Don' Johnson MORE (R-Wis.) — have announced since Friday that they have tested positive for the coronavirus. Another three GOP senators — Ben SasseBen SasseOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Josh Hawley is a conservative without a clue Republican Party going off the rails? MORE (Neb.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March 11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience' Missouri newspaper hammers Hawley and Blunt: 'Embarrassment to the state' MORE (Okla.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzJohn Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report Huawei backs supply chain security standards in wake of SolarWinds breach The Memo: Biden faces first major setback as Tanden teeters MORE (Texas) — have tested negative but are self-isolating after being around their COVID-19 positive colleagues, who each attended caucus lunches and committee hearings last week.

Their absence caps McConnell's normal 53-seat majority at 47 seats for at least this week. It also deprives him of the 51 votes needed for a quorum so that the Senate can conduct business.

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"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 late last week about the effort to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before the Nov. 3 election.

"The members have some of them done their interviews in previous hearings remotely. This sort of underscores the need to do that. I think every precaution needs to be taken because we don't anticipate any Democratic support at all ... and therefore everybody needs to be in an all hands on deck mindset," he added.

Democrats have called to delay the hearings, arguing that by moving forward Republicans are putting their judicial ambitions above the health and safety of senators as well as the staff and reporters who interact with them on a daily basis.

Democrats also argued McConnell's move to adjourn the Senate, even though they are sticking to their Supreme Court timeline, was hypocritical.

But they did not block him from adjourning on Monday.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democrats in standoff over minimum wage Democrats plan crackdown on rising drug costs MORE (D-Va.), the only Democratic senator to speak on the floor on Monday, asked McConnell to extend the Senate break through Election Day.

But McConnell shot down that request, meaning the Senate will come back into session on October 19.