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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 TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE and three GOP senators tested positive for the coronavirus.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhy the Democrats need Joe Manchin Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain 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 GrahamGOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Lindsey Graham: Dismissal of Wuhan lab leak theory cost Trump 2020 election Tim Scott: Could be 'very hard' to reach police reform deal by June deadline 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 TillisInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Lara Trump lost her best opportunity — if she ever really wanted it 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 MORE (R-N.C.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot Matt Stoller says cheerleading industry shows why antitrust laws are 'insufficient' Senate chaos: Johnson delays exit as votes pushed to Friday MORE (R-Utah) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator YouTube suspends Ron Johnson for 7 days GOP senators introduce bill to make Iran deal subject to Senate approval MORE (R-Wis.) — have announced since Friday that they have tested positive for the coronavirus. Another three GOP senators — Ben SasseBen SasseGOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Pence: Trump and I may never 'see eye to eye' on events of Jan. 6 White House: Biden will not appoint presidential Jan. 6 commission MORE (Neb.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordPolice reform negotiations enter crucial stretch GOP turns against Jan. 6 probe as midterm distraction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden wants Congress to pass abortion bill, pushes for Mideast cease-fire MORE (Okla.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden tries to erase Trump's 'America First' on world stage Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot 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 KaineOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military Democrats try to pin down Manchin on voting rights 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.