- Democratic senators from the Judiciary Committee sent a stern letter to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, warning not to proceed with the Supreme Court nomination hearing next week for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
- Graham recently refused to take a coronavirus test.
- "No plausible public health or scientific rationale justifies proceeding with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings next week," the Democrats wrote in their letter. "We need not proceed in such a reckless and blind fashion."
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Democratic senators from the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the group's chairman, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, warning not to proceed with the Supreme Court nomination hearing next week for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Kamala Harris of California on Friday urged Graham to postpone Barrett's confirmation hearing on Monday "to ensure that we don't risk the health and safety of fellow Senators, Senate staff, other Senate employees, as well as Judge Barrett and her family."
"No plausible public health or scientific rationale justifies proceeding with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings next week," the Democrats wrote in their letter. "We need not proceed in such a reckless and blind fashion."
"As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, your first and foremost obligation is to ensure the safety and well-being of Committee members and staff," they added. "We urge you to honor that obligation in the days ahead."
The letter, which also demanded "every Senator and staffer who plans to attend the hearings must test negative for COVID-19 on two prior consecutive days," would face resistance from Graham, who recently refused to take a coronavirus test. Prior to a scheduled debate with Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison in person on Friday, Graham asserted he took a test last week and was told by a physician that he did not need another test.
Graham's decision threatened to scuttle the debate with Harrison, who said he would not debate in person if the incumbent did not get tested. The debate's format was eventually altered so it was conducted through individual interviews.
The letter comes as two Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, announced they tested positive for the coronavirus on October 2.
While it is unclear how the senators contracted the virus, both of them attended White House event at the Rose Garden on September 26 to celebrate President Donald Trump's nomination of Barrett. The event has been viewed as a super-spreader event due to the large number of attendees who did not wear a mask, and after at least nine other officials who attended had subsequently tested positive.
Tillis and Lee said they will be in self-quarantine for 10 days.
Tillis, who said he was "symptom-free" believed he would be present for the confirmation hearing. He also noted that he may be attending the hearings virtually "for the first day or two" before a final vote is expected to be cast later on in the week.
"I feel great," Tillis said on "Fox and Friends" earlier this week. "I'm following the doctors' guidance. I'm self-quarantined."
The notion of holding the remote hearing have frustrated Democratic members of the committee, who alleged their counterparts were rushing through the confirmation ahead of the presidential election; and that "for such a consequential hearing, would be entirely unprecedented."
"The idea of having virtual hearings where no one is with the witness for the highest court in the land for a life appointment that would have such effect on peoples' lives makes no sense," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said on Sunday. "A virtual hearing is virtually no hearing at all."
Judge Barrett was nominated by Trump after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her confirmation hearing, which comes weeks before the presidential election in November, is viewed as one of the most consequential in modern history. If confirmed, Barrett is expected to solidify a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court majority.
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