Harris to take part in Barrett hearings remotely
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, will take part in this week’s confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett remotely from her Senate office, a spokesperson said on Sunday, citing Republicans’ response to a recent coronavirus outbreak.
“Due to Judiciary Committee Republicans’ refusal to take commonsense steps to protect members, aides, Capitol complex workers, and members of the media, Senator Harris plans to participate in this week’s hearings remotely from her Senate office in the Hart building,” said Chris Harris, a spokesman for the Democratic senator.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to start four days of hearings for Barrett on Monday. Senators have the option of participating remotely, though the judge is expected to testify in person. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also said he will oversee the hearing in person.
Kamala Harris said earlier Sunday that “Chairman Graham and Senate Republicans are endangering the lives of not just members and our staff, but the hardworking people who keep the Senate complex running” by moving forward with the hearings.
The Judiciary Committee has put social distancing measures in place, including spreading out senators and limiting staff and press in the room. But Democrats had called on Graham to either delay the hearing or require testing, which the GOP chairman rejected.
Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) both tested positive recently for the coronavirus. Two other GOP members of the committee, Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), are self-isolating but are expected to return this week for all or part of the hearings.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the committee who is in a tough reelection bid, said on Saturday that she thought members of the committee should get tested.
“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.
Graham has defended the decision to start the hearings on Monday, noting that the committee room will comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
“We’re setting the hearing room up based on CDC guidelines. I just got a statement today from the Architect of the Capitol, who consulted with the House physician saying that the room is set up in a compliant way,” Graham said during a forum in South Carolina late last week.