WASHINGTON—The event designed to present Amy Coney Barrett as President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is now complicating Senate Republicans’ effort to keep her confirmation on track.
At least eight people at a Rose Garden event on Saturday, Sept. 26, have tested positive for Covid-19, including two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee responsible for advancing the nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he intends to cancel Senate votes planned for the next two weeks, aiming to guard against the risk of the virus spreading in the Senate and sidelining more Republicans while keeping on track confirmation hearings set to begin Oct. 12.
“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 mind-set,” Mr. McConnell said Friday on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”
The nightmare scenario for Mr. McConnell would be that so many Republicans fall ill that he is left unable to muster the quorum necessary to hold votes before Election Day. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Senate needs a majority to do business. Republicans hold 53 of 100 seats. The absence of three Republican senators would deprive Mr. McConnell of a majority from within his own conference should Democrats decide to use procedural tools to force Republicans to demonstrate that they have a quorum. Vice President Mike Pence isn’t a senator and can’t contribute to a quorum.
In the immediate term, the bigger complication was for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), whose plans call for holding opening statements on Monday, Oct. 12, before Judge Barrett is questioned. Mr. Graham had originally planned in-person hearings, but on Friday he said “any senator who wants to participate virtually will be allowed to do so.”
That statement left open the possibility of a virtual Supreme Court nomination hearing. Many on the Senate Judiciary Committee were potentially exposed Thursday to Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), an attendee of the Saturday event at the Rose Garden whose positive Covid-19 test result came back on Thursday night—after the committee meeting that day.
Democrats blasted Republicans, saying GOP leaders were taking unnecessary risks by rushing.
“To proceed at this juncture with a hearing to consider Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court threatens the health and safety of all those who are called upon to do the work of this body,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the committee, and other Democrats wrote to Mr. Graham. “Holding a remote hearing for a Supreme Court nomination is not an adequate substitute,” they wrote, because “questioning nominees by video is ineffective and ignores the gravity of our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on lifetime appointments, particularly those to the nation’s highest court.”
CDC guidelines recommend that people stay home for 14 days from their last known contact with a person diagnosed with Covid-19.
That would make Friday, Oct. 16, the first day that any committee member