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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 John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE and three GOP senators tested positive for the coronavirus.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight 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 GrahamFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in Jaime Harrison raises million in two weeks for South Carolina Senate bid 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 TillisGOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive Senate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll MORE (R-N.C.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEnd the American military presence in Somalia Ted Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test MORE (R-Utah) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate panels to interview former Hunter Biden business associate Friday Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Biden: Johnson should be 'ashamed' for suggesting family profited from their name MORE (R-Wis.) — have announced since Friday that they have tested positive for the coronavirus. Another three GOP senators — Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseSweden bans use of Huawei, ZTE equipment in new 5G networks McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (Neb.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordMcConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate Senators push for Turkey sanctions after reports Ankara used Russian system to detect US-made jets McConnell: Plan is to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick before election MORE (Okla.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments Quinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas 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 KaineDemocrats have no case against Amy Coney Barrett — but that won't stop them Pence-Harris debate draws more than 50M viewers, up 26 percent from 2016 Five takeaways from the vice presidential debate 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.