Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday demanded that Senate Republicans immediately halt their "absurd and dangerous" rush to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court after reporting indicated GOP advisers are advocating a plan under which Covid-infected senators could vote on President Donald Trump's nominee from the chamber's visitors gallery.
"The Republican leadership has truly lost touch with reality if it's contemplating marching Covid-stricken members to the Senate to rush through a Supreme Court nominee who could strip healthcare from 20 million Americans," Schumer said in a statement. "Make no mistake about it, Americans are seeing the similarities between Republicans' willingness to put their colleagues and staff at risk in pursuit of power, and their willingness to strip healthcare from tens of millions of Americans in pursuit of their ideological goals."
According to the Washington Post, outside Republican advisers working on the Barrett confirmation "have suggested a system in which the [Senate Judiciary Committee] vote would be held in the Senate chamber, with ill senators voting from the visitors' galleries above the floor so they can maintain distance." The Post noted that GOP aides "have yet to discuss that option."
"For now," the Post added, "Republicans are promising to press forward—virus or not, healthy or infected."
At least six Republican senators—four of whom are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee—are currently quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus or coming into contact with someone who did.
Despite the outbreak on Capitol Hill and in the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have opted to move forward with October 12 hearings on Barrett's nomination—a decision Schumer denounced as "reckless."
GOP leadership has truly lost touch with reality if it’s contemplating marching COVID-stricken members to the Senate to rush through a nominee who could strip health care from millions
The Senate needs COVID testing, and the GOP must halt this reckless Supreme Court process now
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 5, 2020
Even after Trump, numerous members of the president's inner circle, and several GOP lawmakers tested positive for the virus over just the past week, Republican senators have maintained their cavalier approach to Covid-19 and brushed aside any suggestion that Barrett's confirmation process should be pushed back.
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In a Fox Business interview Sunday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Republican senators could appear in the Senate chamber for the final confirmation vote on Barrett even if they are still infected with the highly contagious virus that has killed more than 209,000 people in the United States.
"I think every senator who's currently tested positive or is in isolation will be back to work under normal conditions [by later this month]," Cotton said. "But, if that's not the case, there is a long and venerable tradition of ill or medically infirm senators being wheeled in to cast critical votes."
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who announced Saturday morning that he tested positive for the coronavirus, said in a radio appearance Monday that "if we have to go in and vote, I've already told leadership I'll go in a moon suit."
"I would certainly try to find a way. Making sure that everybody was safe," said Johnson. "You know, where there's a will there's a way."
David Sirota, founder of The Daily Poster and former speechwriter for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), tweeted in response to Johnson's remarks: "Imagine if Democratic senators were this committed to stopping Barrett's nomination."
"Imagine if they were willing to go into the Senate in space suits to stop this," Sirota added. "That's what we need right now. That's what it's going to take."
As Common Dreams reported earlier Monday, Sirota and other progressives are urging Schumer and the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus to do everything in their power to prevent a vote on Barrett's confirmation until at least after next month's presidential election.
With McConnell expected Monday afternoon to request unanimous consent for a two-week Senate recess, progressives are calling on Senate Democrats to deny consent and oppose any adjournment resolution that doesn't delay Barrett's confirmation vote until after November 3.
"Schumer should do whatever McConnell would do were roles reversed," said David Segal, executive director of advocacy group Demand Progress.