Coronavirus upends GOP plans for fast Barrett affirmation hearings

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In case you did not know this earlier than, the final 72 hours ought to function a reminder that in terms of the mechanics, the affirmation and the way forward for what occurs in Congress this month, nothing is definite.

That features the affirmation of Amy Coney Barrett earlier than Election Day. What unfolds over the times and weeks cannot be managed by a grasp political tactician like Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell or last-minute procedural hurdles unfurled by Minority Chief Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

Whereas greater than 209,000 Individuals have died of the virus and dmore than seven million Individuals have contracted it, the case rely within the halls of Congress has remained comparatively low, lulling members into pondering that assembly for hour-long lunches, convening hearings and flying backwards and forwards was much less dangerous than it all the time was.

However coronavirus has come to the halls of Congress and nobody can predict the affect the virus might need there over the subsequent 30 days. That was all the time the case. Solely now, we are able to not faux to disregard it.

A scheduling observe

Inside one celebration that helped spread the virus across the US government

The concern and threat of the virus is so actual that on Saturday, McConnell introduced that the Senate would halt ground motion over the subsequent two weeks. Which means votes will not occur this week or subsequent. And except for a couple of temporary professional forma classes, lawmakers will not be on the ground.

That is as a lot strategic as it’s about security. McConnell can solely afford to lose three Republican senators’ votes and nonetheless push via a Supreme Courtroom nominee, and he cannot threat exposing his members over the subsequent a number of weeks to an unpredictable and relentless virus.

A reminder of the maths: Each Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have already stated they will not again any GOP nominee forward of Election Day. We’re nonetheless weeks away from a ground vote, however that leaves little room for McConnell to search out the votes if members of his convention contract or stay sick with Covid-19.

In a letter over the weekend to his convention obtained by CNN’s Manu Raju, McConnell wrote, “The Senate will go into professional forma session till October 19th. On that day, we are going to want all Republican Senators again and wholesome to make sure we’ve got a quorum.”

That brings us to Judiciary

Whereas ground motion might be suspended till then, the Senate Judiciary Committee will nonetheless meet the week of October 12 for Barrett’s affirmation hearings.

This sparked outrage from Democrats who argue that if it is too unsafe to satisfy for normal enterprise, it’s too harmful to satisfy for a Judiciary Committee listening to. It is also launched a slew of logistical complications for staffers who now — along with getting ready for a Supreme Courtroom nomination listening to inside 16 days of Barrett’s nomination — should additionally put together for a listening to as Covid-19 infiltrates the Capitol.

In keeping with aides, Democratic and Republican staffers are having conversations about how to make sure that members, employees, the nominee and her aides are protected. Anticipate to see extra seating for members, a restrict on the variety of employees, and much fewer spectators within the room.

Usually, these hearings run the whole day. They’re intensive with employees working out and in of the room to help their bosses and assist them navigate difficult histories of a nominee’s writings and case choices. However additionally they are sometimes packed. Managing the room measurement, variety of attendees and deciding whether or not or not everybody needs to be examined forward of time all are choices up for dialogue proper now. Democrats are pushing exhausting for required testing for everybody within the room, in accordance with aides.

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The largest excellent query is when two members of Judiciary who have been identified with the virus — Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — might be wholesome sufficient to return.

The essential date to circle on the calendar is October 15. That is when Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham will want a quorum current to vote. The committee has 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats. So as to have a quorum, Graham wants a minimum of one of many two — Lee or Tillis — to be again. The concern is that if each have been out, Democrats might boycott and preserve Graham from having a quorum. That will delay the nomination course of and put into jeopardy the possibilities that Barrett is confirmed by the total Senate forward of Election Day.

Testing on the Capitol

In case you’ve been watching the Capitol for the final six months, you’ll have seen intermittent requires the Senate and Home to get collectively a plan for widespread and common testing on the Capitol advanced.

These calls have been led by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican in management and chairman of the Senate Guidelines Committee. However they’ve largely gone nowhere. Within the spring, McConnell and Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected gives from Trump to make use of speedy exams on the Capitol out of concern that the optics of members having common entry to exams when Individuals have been struggling to get exams could be unseemly.
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However the calls are rising louder and louder, with aides and members venting over the dearth of a testing regiment on Capitol Hill when members are flying from each nook of the nation on planes each single week.

Blunt has referred to as the Capitol “a Petri dish,” and he is proper. The dangers — because the final a number of days have proven — are nice and people dangers do not simply have an effect on members of Congress. There are tons of of staffers, upkeep, cleansing and restaurant staff who function within the Capitol.

A testing routine would profit all of them.

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