GOP senator attends Barrett hearing despite positive virus test 10 days ago

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Sen. Mike Lee claims his doctor told him he is not a risk to spread the virus.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is attending a hearing Monday on the confirmation of Donald Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett. Despite the fact that he tested positive for the coronavirus just 10 days ago, Lee is attending the hearing in person.

Lee told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Monday morning that his doctor told him he is no longer contagious. He did not say whether he is still testing positive for the virus.

"I've gotten the sign-off from the Office of the Attending Physician," Lee told Hewitt.

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Republicans are holding confirmation hearings for Barrett in person, despite the fact that at least two members of the committee — Lee and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) — tested positive for the virus. Both men attended an event in the White House Rose Garden at which Trump announced his nomination of Barrett to the court; the event is now considered a likely coronavirus superspreader, with numerous people who attended subsequently testing positive for the virus.

Other members of the committee, including Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — have refused to have a coronavirus test altogether.

If Lee, Tillis, Graham, and Grassley, among other GOP senators, were unable to attend Barrett's hearing, Republicans likely would not have a quorum, the minimum required number of committee members present to be able to hold votes, and would not be able to vote Barrett out of committee.

According to the rules of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a quorum for discussing business is seven members; for transacting business, it is nine. "No bill, matter, or nomination shall be ordered reported from the Committee, however, unless a majority of the Committee is actually present at the time such action is taken and a majority of those present support the action taken," the rules note.

Many Democratic members of the committee, including vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, are not attending the hearing in person, "[d]ue to Judiciary Committee Republicans' refusal to take common sense steps to protect members, aides, Capitol complex workers, and members of the media," as a spokesperson for Harris said on Saturday.

Republicans are trying to rush through Barrett's nomination before the election, despite saying in 2016 that Supreme Court justices should not be confirmed in election years.

Graham himself admitted at the start of Barrett's hearing on Monday that it's unprecedented to confirm a justice this close to an election.

However, if Republicans do not confirm Barrett now, they risk being unable to fill the seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg if Democrats take the White House and the Senate in November.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.