It’s not been a good 24 hours for Republicans.
First, Donald Trump tweeted he had tested positive for COVID-19. Then, in rapid succession, several other White House aides reported positive tests, including Kellyanne Conway and campaign manager Bill Stepien.
If that weren’t bad enough, three Republican senators have reported positive coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours, with the latest being Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. Previously, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis and Utah’s Mike Lee also tested positive. All of them will go into quarantine for at least two weeks.
What does that do to the timeline to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Barrett’s nomination will go forward as scheduled.
McConnell, who was interviewed on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, said the Senate Judiciary Committee will take additional precautions as it moves forward with the confirmation process for Barrett.
“The plan is for the nomination to come out of the committee on October the 22nd as Chairman Lindsey Graham has indicated, and we will be voting on the nominee very soon,” McConnell said. “I haven’t picked an exact point to bring the nomination up. But it is front and center for the American people. As we move ahead I will be more specific on the precise time on the Senate floor.”
Judiciary Committee hearings are scheduled to begin on October 12.
But if any of those senators who tested positive become ill, that could lengthen their quarantine indefinitely. Any delay would make confirming Barrett problematic. A vote delayed until after the election would be a crapshoot and McConnell knows it. With two GOP senators — Collins and Murkowski — already on record saying that they believe whoever is elected on November 3 should choose the nominee, lame-duck senators would be free to oppose Barrett or decline to vote. McConnell may have difficulty rounding up 50 votes.
But now, the game within a game begins in earnest. Democrats will do everything in their power to delay a committee vote and a floor vote. The illness of two Judiciary Committee members — Lee and Tillis — could prove to be a problem.
Graham would need a majority of his committee present for a quorum in order to approve the nomination, and the absences of Lee and Tillis could prevent that from happening if Democrats boycott the proceedings. But even if they don’t have a quorum, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can always advance the nomination to the floor under the rules without a committee vote.
Johnson is not on the Judiciary panel but would not be able to vote on the floor if he were not present. Johnson’s office said the Wisconsin senator was again exposed “shortly after” returning to Washington on September 29 and was tested Friday afternoon.
McConnell is not without his own parliamentary weapons and will find a way to bring the nomination to the floor — as long as he can be assured that Barrett will be confirmed.
This election is not finished surprising us. One month out and there is a lot of new information for voters to process. And who knows where that will take us.
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