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Ernst: 'It would be smart' for Senate Judiciary Committee to be tested for COVID-19

Ernst: 'It would be smart' for Senate Judiciary Committee to be tested for COVID-19
© Greg Nash

Iowa Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden barnstorm the Midwest | Texas sets statewide turnout record | Trump, Tillis trail in NC Oct. 30: Where Trump and Biden will be campaigning Ernst holds narrow lead over Democratic challenger in Iowa: poll MORE (R) said lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee should be tested for COVID-19 before they begin confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

“I actually do think that it would be smart to do that, and I hate to do it without having reasons to do so, but I think if we’re going to be working in close proximity over long hours, it’s probably not a bad idea,” she told reporters in the Hawkeye State on Saturday.

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Ernst, a member of the upper chamber's judiciary panel, will participate in the confirmation hearings for Barrett that are set to begin on Monday.

She also finds herself locked in a competitive reelection campaign against Democrat Theresa Greenfield, with recent polls showing Ernst trailing by single digits.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP faces fundraising reckoning as Democrats rake in cash The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Election night could be a bit messy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, scheduled the hearings to begin on Oct. 12 after two of the panel’s members, Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGeorgia Republican Drew Ferguson tests positive for COVID-19 Trump says ex-staffer who penned 'Anonymous' op-ed should be 'prosecuted' White House to host swearing-in event for Barrett on Monday night MORE (R-Utah) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden barnstorm the Midwest | Texas sets statewide turnout record | Trump, Tillis trail in NC North Carolina Democrat Cunningham leads Tillis by 10 points in new poll Georgia Republican Drew Ferguson tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-N.C.), tested positive for the coronavirus. Both are now self-quarantining. 

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Democrats are calling on Republicans to delay the hearings, claiming they could risk the health and safety of both senators and their staffs. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerReestablishing American prosperity by investing in the 'Badger Belt' House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs MORE (D-N.Y.) said earlier this week that if the hearings are not delayed, then Graham should require testing for senators and their staffs. 

"Instead of engaging in continuously more absurd and dangerous behavior, Chairman Graham should halt this already illegitimate nomination process, and if he refuses, he must put into place a thorough testing procedure that is in accordance with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] best practices before hearings can take place," Schumer said in a statement.

The committee hearings are anticipated to take place in a larger room in order for senators to be able to practice social distancing, and Graham is expected to limit the number of staff and reporters in the room.

Republicans sought to have Barrett confirmed by Oct. 22, which would cap off a contentious process.

Democrats are outraged with how the GOP is handling Barrett’s nomination, accusing their Republican colleagues of hypocrisy after they blocked then-President Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy months before the 2016 election. 

Ernst has defended the Senate’s right to consider President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE’s nominee to fill the vacancy left by the death of the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgThe truth, the whole truth about protecting preexisting conditions McConnell plans to fill two key circuit court seats even if Trump loses GOP faces fundraising reckoning as Democrats rake in cash MORE, saying the situation this year is different from 2016 because the same party controls the Senate and the White House.

In 2016, the GOP held the Senate in Obama’s final year in office.