Coronavirus shutters Senate floor, but Barrett ...

Source:  Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Saturday that he is postponing floor activity for the next two weeks after several senators contracted the coronavirus.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett would continue as scheduled, beginning on Oct. 12, via a hybrid system that allows some lawmakers to participate over videoconference.

“Since May, the Judiciary Committee has operated flawlessly through a hybrid method that has seen some senators appear physically at its hearings while other members have participated virtually,” McConnell said in a statement. “The committee has utilized this format successfully for many months while protecting the health and safety of all involved. Certainly, all Republican members of the committee will participate in these important hearings.”

Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina all contracted the coronavirus, they announced over the past 24 hours.

Lee and Tillis attended the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event hosted by President Trump to announce Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Trump revealed his coronavirus diagnosis Friday at around 1 a.m. and is being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for mild symptoms, his doctors said Saturday.

While Senate Democrats are eager to slow down or stop Barrett’s confirmation, Republicans are determined to complete it as early as the end of October.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said he’ll begin the confirmation hearings on Oct. 12 and will hold a vote to advance her nomination to the floor Oct. 22.

Senate lawmakers are allowed to vote “by proxy” in committee, which means another lawmaker present on the panel can vote for them.

The House adopted similar rules earlier this year in response to the coronavirus. The House allows remote voting in committee and proxy voting on the Senate floor. Senate rules continue to require all lawmakers to vote in person on the Senate floor.

McConnell is ignoring the demands of Democrats to postpone Barrett’s confirmation in order to ensure all lawmakers can safely attend in person.

Lee and Tillis are both members of the Judiciary Committee.

The panel’s ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, is 87 years old.

“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair, and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out by Chairman Graham,” McConnell said.

Graham issued a statement Saturday outlining Senate rules indicating that “committees may convene regardless of whether or not the Senate is in session” and declaring his panel “will proceed with the consideration of the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States on October 12, 2020.”