The United States Senate is postponing all scheduled Senate floor activity until after October 19, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday, as several legislators tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
In a statement, McConnell reiterated that confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, would continue as planned, however.
Those hearings are still expected to begin on October 12.
“Previously-scheduled floor activity will be rescheduled until after October 19th … The important work of the Senate’s committees can and will continue as each committee sees fit,” McConnell said in the statement.
“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair, and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out,” he continued.
The decision comes after at least three Senate Republicans tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days – and the day after Trump was moved to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for COVID-19 treatment following his positive diagnosis.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin announced that he tested positive for COVID-19. “Senator Johnson feels healthy and is not experiencing any symptoms,” a statement from his office said on Saturday.
A day earlier, Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, also Republicans, said they had also tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Both Tillis and Lee serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with voting on Barrett’s nomination to the country’s top court. They also attended a nomination ceremony for the judge on September 26 at the White House.
Barrett’s candidacy to fill the US Supreme Court seat of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month, has set off a fierce political battle in Washington, DC.
Republicans, who control the Senate, insist that the president’s nominee can be confirmed before the November 3 presidential election, while Democrats say the pick should be left to whoever wins the vote.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed McConnell’s announcement on Saturday, saying the fact that at least three Republican senators had tested positive for COVID-19 “makes clear that the Senate cannot proceed with business as usual”.
“If it’s too dangerous to have the Senate in session, it’s too dangerous for committee hearings to continue,” Schumer said on Twitter.
Lee, the Utah senator, said in a statement on Friday that he had spoken to McConnell and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, “and assured them I will be back to work in time” for the committee hearings on Barrett’s nomination.
McConnell had said on Friday that he believed the Senate “can move forward” as planned.
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