WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings will proceed as planned even though two Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had contracted the coronavirus.
Senators Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, who sit on the panel that will preside over the hearings, tested positive for COVID-19 in the past day. Both were at the White House on Sept. 26 when President Donald Trump introduced Barrett as his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month.
Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington on Friday just hours after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Previously-scheduled floor activity will be rescheduled until after October 19th ... The important work of the Senate’s committees can and will continue as each committee sees fit,” McConnell said in a statement.
McConnell added that the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee would start Barrett’s confirmation hearings on Oct. 12 as previously planned. Senators have the option of attending the hearings in person or remotely.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said McConnell’s decision was dangerous and reckless.
“If it’s too dangerous to have the Senate in session it is also too dangerous for committee hearings to continue,” Schumer said in a statement.
On Friday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham spoke to Trump and the first thing the president asked about was the Senate’s plan for Barrett’s confirmation, an aide to Graham said.
McConnell’s announcement, however, could mean that no new coronavirus aid bill will be approved by Congress in the coming days, despite negotiations this week between House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House officials.
Those talks resumed after talks reached an impasse in August. Congressional Democrats were seeking more than $2 trillion in new aid to battle the pandemic and many Republican senators were either supporting a significantly smaller response or no further funding at this time.
Reporting by Idrees Ali and Richard Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao
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