Senate

Democrats urge Pence to not preside over Barrett vote due to coronavirus cases

Top Senate Democrats are urging Vice President Pence to abandon plans to preside over Monday's vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court after several of his aides tested positive for the coronavirus.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and members of his leadership team sent a letter to Pence saying that in the wake of the recent coronavirus cases, presiding over the vote "is not a risk worth taking."

"Not only would your presence in the Senate Chamber tomorrow be a clear violation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, it would also be a violation of common decency and courtesy. Your presence alone could be very dangerous to many people ... who must be physically present inside the U.S. Capitol for it to function," the senators wrote to Pence.

Pence is expected to preside over Barrett's confirmation vote, which is set to take place around 7 p.m. on Monday. Spokespeople for Pence didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the letter or the vice president's plans.

Pence won't be needed to break a tie during the vote. But he previously presided over the votes on President Trump's first two Supreme Court nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Barrett also lives in Indiana, Pence's home state.

Barrett's vote, however, comes after several of Pence's aides, including his "body man" and his chief of staff, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Pence tested negative for the coronavirus as recently as Monday.

Democrats pointed to the fact that Pence's role would be "purely ceremonial" to drive home their request that he skip the Senate's vote.

"Nothing about your presence in the Senate tomorrow can be considered essential. You will not need to cast the deciding vote to break a tie. ... We believe that if you and President Trump finally began to take this crisis seriously, instead of taking actions that could further increase the spread, we would all be safer and better off," they wrote.

The letter to Pence comes after Schumer sent a letter to his caucus on Sunday urging them to avoid lingering on the Senate floor in the wake of Pence and GOP aides getting the virus.

"Considering the Republicans' refusal [to] follow CDC guidelines regarding quarantining and contact tracing, I would recommend that you not congregate in the Senate chamber today and that you cast your votes quickly and from a safe distance," Schumer wrote.

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