Senate Judiciary chair refuses COVID test, says Barrett hearings will be run in ‘medically compliant way’
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 10, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Mere days before the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett are set to begin, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, refused to take a coronavirus test. Graham argued that he was going to run “the hearing in a medically compliant way, but I’m not going to live my life differently than you who have to live yours.”
Before a debate yesterday, Graham’s opponent for a Senate seat, Jaime Harrison, asked him to take a COVID-19 test in order for the debate to go forward. Since he refused, both candidates were being questioned for 30 minutes each.
Graham asked the viewers during his section of the debate, “How many of you are going to go to work tomorrow? How many of you are going to be around people tomorrow? If you’re a waitress and you go to the restaurant to earn your living, are you going to require of your employer that everybody be tested that comes into the restaurant? Are you going to require that all your co-workers be tested, whether they need to or not?”
“You can’t make that requirement,” the senator explained. “If you did, it would break our economy. So we’re going to run the hearing in a medically compliant way, but I’m not going to live my life differently than you who have to live yours.”
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham is responsible for conducting the confirmation hearings starting Monday.
President Donald Trump had nominated Judge Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, to the Supreme Court two weeks ago. According to standard procedure, the Senate Judiciary Committee can ask the nominee any questions during the hearings, before the full Senate can vote to confirm.
Several positive coronavirus tests among senators and members of the administration in recent weeks have led Democrats to ask for delaying the hearings in an attempt to block replacing the late pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the pro-life Barrett.
Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah announced last Friday that he started experiencing “symptoms consisted with longtime allergies” on Thursday morning. “Out of an abundance of caution, I sought medical advice and was tested for COVID-19. Unlike the test I took just a few days ago while visiting the White House, yesterday’s test came back positive.”
Lee said he was quarantining “for the next 10 days” until October 12.
In his brief statement, he made sure to emphasize that he had spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Graham “and assured them I will be back to work in time to join my Judiciary Committee colleagues in advancing the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Committee and then to the full Senate.”
Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina said just a few hours after Lee that he tested positive for COVID-19, as well. Like Lee, Tillis is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also will be “self-isolating at home for 10 days,” but he didn’t comment on any implications his diagnosis might have on confirming Barrett as a Supreme Court justice.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein released a statement after the two members of the committee were diagnosed with COVID-19.
“It is premature for Chairman 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,” they wrote. “The unfortunate news about the infection of our colleague Senator Mike Lee makes even more clear that health and safety must guide the schedule for all Senate activities, including hearings.”
The statement was released after both President Donald Trump and Lee tested positive, but before Tillis had his test results.
“In addition,” the Democrats’ statement continued, “there is bipartisan agreement that a virtual confirmation hearing for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench is not an acceptable substitute. All circuit court nominees have appeared in person during the pandemic, and there is far more at stake for the American people with this Supreme Court nomination, including the Affordable Care Act being struck down and more than 7 million COVID survivors being denied health coverage.”
The first of four scheduled days of hearings will begin at 9 a.m. ET on Monday.