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Senate Dems seek delay in Amy Coney Barrett hearings citing coronavirus risk


'We do not know the full extent of potential exposure stemming from the president's infection'

GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) issued a joint statement Friday calling on Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to hold off on moving forward with hearings on U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett, citing risks of spreading COVID-19 in light of President Donald Trump and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) testing positive for the virus.

What are the details?

Schumer and Feinstein — who have both been adamantly opposed to President Trump nominating a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election — wrote that it is "premature" for Graham "to commit to a hearing schedule when we do not know the full extent of potential exposure stemming from the president's infection and before the White House puts in place a contact tracing plan to prevent further spread of the disease."

The Democrats also stated that the "infection" of Lee, who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, "makes even more clear that health and safety must guide the schedule for all Senate activities, including hearings."

According to Schumer and Feinstein, virtual hearings on Barrett's nomination would not be "an acceptable substitute" given the magnitude of deciding "a lifetime appointment to the federal bench."

They argued that moving forward would turn "this already illegitimate process" into "a dangerous one."

A Republican aide called the Democrats' latest effort to stall Barrett's nomination hearings "a nakedly partisan ploy," telling Fox News, "Everyone is concerned about health right now and that comes first, but the business of the Senate and this Supreme Court confirmation process doesn't stop. That's why we've been at work."

The outlet reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that Senate hearings have already been conducted remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and suggested virtual proceedings would be the appropriate way to handle the process for Barrett.

McConnell told the "Hugh Hewitt Show" on Friday, "They've been careful already. Members, some of them, have done their interview in previous hearing remotely. This sort of underscores, I think, the need to do that. And I think every precaution needs to be taken because we don't anticipate any Democratic support at all, either in committee or in the full Senate, and therefore everybody needs to be in an all-hands-on-deck mindset."

However, the majority leader also signaled that Barrett's confirmation could come after Election Day, telling Fox News' Bret Baier, "This Republican Senate was elected for a term that ends in January of next year. The president was elected for a four-year term that ends Jan. 20 of next year."

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