Barrett's Confirmation Appears to Be Less Certain

Two senators on Judiciary Committee have tested positive for virus
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2020 12:00 PM CDT
Barrett's Confirmation Appears to Be Less Certain
Judge Amy Coney Barrett meets Thursday with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on Capitol Hill.   (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

(Newser) – The COVID-19 toll on the Senate could put Republicans at risk of running out of time—and votes—as they try to push through the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee. Three GOP senators have tested positive for the coronavirus, and others are in self-quarantine. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, wants Judiciary Committee hearings on Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's choice for the court, to begin Oct. 12. But if Sens. Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, both of whom are in quarantine now, aren't able to rejoin the committee in time for votes, the nomination could stall, the Guardian reports. The committee might lack the total number of members needed to approve the nomination if Democrats boycott the hearings.

Once Barrett's nomination reaches the full Senate, the pandemic still could affect the outcome, per the Atlantic. The GOP has a six-vote majority, but that's counting Lee, Tillis, and Ron Johnson, who also has tested positive. Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have said they won't vote to confirm before the Nov. 3 election. There's also concern about another Judiciary member—Sen. Chuck Grassley, who's 87 and recently attended a hearing with Lee. One possibility for Republicans is to put off the committee vote until just before the full Senate votes, which would give the infected Judiciary members more time to recover; pandemic rules allow committee members to vote virtually if they can't attend hearings in person. McConnell also could try to bypass the committee or replace ill senators, but those moves would need the approval of the full Senate. (Read more Amy Coney Barrett stories.)

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