(C) Reuters. Judge Amy Coney Barrett meets with Republican Senator from Louisiana Bill Cassidy at the United States Capitol Building in Washington
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Republicans said on Friday they will carry on with the confirmation process for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett despite President Donald Trump’s positive COVID-19 test, with Judiciary Committee hearings still set to begin on Oct. 12.
“I think we can move forward,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt.
The Republican president has asked that the Senate confirm Barrett, a federal appeals court judge, by the Nov. 3 election, which would forge a 6-3 conservative majority on the top U.S. judicial body.
“Our biggest enemy, obviously, is … the coronavirus, keeping everybody healthy and well and in place to do our job,” McConnell added.
“Full steam ahead,” an aide to Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (NYSE:GHM) told Reuters when asked if the schedule for hearings due to begin on Oct. 12 could change.
Graham spoke to Trump on Friday morning and said the first thing the president asked about was the Senate’s plan for Barrett’s confirmation, the aide added. McConnell also said he spoke to Trump about Barrett.
Republican Senator Mike Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee, announced he has tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting the White House a few days ago and would isolate himself for 10 days. Lee met with Barrett on Tuesday as she made the rounds with individual senators this week.
Lee wrote on Twitter that he spoke to McConnell and Graham and “assured them 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 in the committee and then to the full Senate.”
Barrett, who was last with Trump on Saturday, has tested negative for the coronavirus and is following government guidelines on social distancing and other best practices, according to a White House official. Barrett was last with Trump on Saturday when he nominated her. She was accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, who has also tested negative, in her meetings with senators.
McConnell described the Senate’s decision on whether to confirm Barrett as being “front and center for the American people” and said the chamber would act after a Judiciary Committee vote due on Oct. 22. Republicans control the Senate with a 53-47 majority, and Barrett’s confirmation seems to be a virtual lock despite opposition from Democrats.
Democrats have said the vacancy should be filled by the winner of the presidential election, a view shared by a majority of Americans in recent opinion polls. McConnell in 2016 refused to have the Senate consider Democratic President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, saying such action should not be taken during an election year.
Barrett would replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18 at age 87. Trump appointed Barrett to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.
Senate Republicans push to confirm court pick Barrett despite Trump’s COVID-19 status
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