Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking for a consent agreement from Democrats to delay reconvening the Senate until October 19. But McConnell says that the Judiciary Committee hearings on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court will go ahead as scheduled starting on October 12.
McConnell does not have a majority with three senators testing positive for the coronavirus. Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) have all gone into quarantine and won’t emerge for at least two weeks.
But the Barrett nomination will remain on track with Chairman Lindsey Graham saying there will be a committee vote on October 22 and McConnell will move for a full vote shortly thereafter.
Both Lee and Tillis are members of the committee and will still likely participate from home. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has also confirmed the hearings won’t be delayed.
McConnell reiterated the Senate will only meet in pro forma sessions for the time being. He added he is open to calling senators back to Washington if votes need to happen in person.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is grousing that “If it’s too dangerous to have the Senate in session, it is also too dangerous for committee hearings to continue.” Nice try, Chuck, but no dice. The Senate has been operating in this fashion since they reconvened in June with some members being present physically and others tuning in virtually. There have even been witnesses who’ve testified remotely. The show will go on.
For a floor vote on the nomination, McConnell is going to need every Republican not named Senator Murkowski or Senator Collins.
Every Republican vote will count, as McConnell is facing tight margins to confirm Barrett. Democrats have largely said they are opposed to the process, potentially leaving McConnell with his 53-member majority to move Barrett’s nomination forward.
Two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have signaled they will vote no on the confirmation ahead of Election Day. That potentially leaves McConnell with a 51-member majority for the potential vote. However, the Republican Senate is still on track to meet those plans.
As long as Vice President Mike Pence is sitting in the Senate, he could break a potential tie if one of the three quarantined senators become ill and unable to cast a vote. But as of now, that won’t be necessary. If any more GOP senators test positive, it could be a very dicey situation for McConnell, who would have lost all room to maneuver.