Coronavirus buffets Senate, but Barrett hearings still on

Coronavirus buffets Senate, but Barrett hearings still on
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., meets with Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, POOL) (Susan Walsh)

As President Donald Trump was being treated in a military hospital outside Washington, D.C. for the Coronavirus, GOP leaders abruptly postponed floor work in the Senate for at least two weeks as three Republicans tested positive for the virus, though hearings on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett will start as scheduled on October 12.

“Senate floor proceedings will be postponed until October 19th,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) all tested positive for the virus.

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Lee and Tillis were both at the White House ceremonies for the nomination of Barrett by President Trump, an event which could be the center of a virus outbreak which has touched the President and other Republican officials.

Those two Senators also are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will need all Republicans in attendance later this month to move the Barrett nomination to the Senate floor.

“I will be back to work in time to join my Judiciary Committee colleagues in advancing the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” Lee said in a statement.

Photos of the Rose Garden ceremony for Barrett show Lee and Tillis sitting in the second row, not far from others who tested positive, including the First Lady, former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, and the president of Notre Dame University, Fr. John Jenkins.

Others in attendance avoided the virus.

“Pleased to report my coronavirus test came back negative,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who also met with Barrett last Thursday on Capitol Hill.

The flurry of GOP positive tests spurred new grumbling among staff, officials, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, which has no regular testing regimen in place to uncover any spread of the virus.

One GOP Senator not taking a COVID-19 test is Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate is fourth in line for the presidency.

The 87 year old Grassley has been in the presence of GOP Senators who tested positive, but he has no plans to quarantine or be checked.