Senate Republicans are being awfully shady about whether they have COVID


Republican lawmakers are rushing to push through Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation.

Senate Republicans are refusing to be tested for coronavirus even as they simultaneously push to begin confirmation hearings for Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

The resistance is puzzling, given nearly half the Senate is 65 years of age or older, the highest-risk group for the virus.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made waves Thursday night when he refused to be tested prior to a debate with his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison.

Graham tweeted a statement that specifically claimed Harrison was "demanding special treatment" by requesting Graham be tested before Friday's debate.

"South Carolinians do not appreciate Harrison putting himself above others," Graham wrote. "If Mr. Harrison is not able to interact with South Carolinians on the same terms as they live their lives, he should not be their senator."

Graham added, "Is any other South Carolinian demanding that every person they come in contact with be tested before they meet?"

Graham also said that he was tested last week and will not test again, and in his statement noted that he will follow the advice of his doctors, "not (his) political opponent."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also repeatedly dodged reporters' questions last week as they asked him whether he had been tested recently in the wake of Donald Trump's diagnosis and the initial White House and Capitol complex outbreaks.

"Have I ever been tested? Yes," McConnell said flatly. "But I'm not going to answer questions about when."

Although Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged last week for the Senate to implement safer testing and contact-tracing protocols, McConnell remained evasive.

"We're following the advice of the CDC in how we operate the Senate, and so far we have been able to do it quite successfully," McConnell said.

McConnell as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi jointly refused an offer of rapid tests for those on Capitol Hill back in May.

The same day he refused to disclose his testing status, McConnell tweeted that nothing would stop the Senate from proceeding "full steam ahead" in the Barrett hearing.

"Just finished a great phone call with @POTUS," he wrote. "He's in good spirits and we talked business — especially how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett. Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve."

Two other senators, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), who traveled with Vice President Mike Pence last week just after Hope Hicks' diagnosis, also said they would not be tested.

Ernst initially said she would not be tested because she hadn't "been with anybody who has it." When a reporter asked if she had any fears that the virus could spread from Hicks to Pence to her, she replied, "No, I don't."

Shortly thereafter, Ernst changed her stance and was tested in Sioux City — "out of an abundance of caution," according to a campaign spokesperson — with reportedly negative results.

Grassley, who is 87, not only refused testing after contact with Pence, but after he was in close proximity at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who also tested positive.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend testing for anyone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than a 15-minute period of time.

Michael Zona, a spokesman for Grassley, said in a statement that the senator's doctors "have not recommended he be tested" as he has not "come into close contact with anyone suspected of having or confirmed to have coronavirus."

He added that at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley's chair was more than 6 feet away from Lee's.

As of Monday, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) had also not been tested.

"There's no known exposure risk to him at this time, though we are monitoring," an aide told CNN.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is Rules Committee Chair and has pushed for more Capitol Hill testing, had also not been tested as of Monday.

CNN reported Thursday that after reaching out to 53 Republican senators to see if they had been tested recently, 18 said they had tested negative and three said they had tested positive.

12 refused to disclose any information about either testing status or testing results.

Senate Republicans have a clear reason for not wanting to be tested or disclose their tasting status: to steamroll unobstructed through Barrett's confirmation hearing and push through Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election.

"We're going to move forward on her nomination," Senate Judiciary Chairman Graham told CNN recently. "We'll have a hearing safely. And I think she'll be confirmed before the election."

McConnell said Tuesday on Fox News that "nothing (he) can see" would prevent a pre-Election Day vote on Barrett.

"We can operate successfully in a COVID environment," he said. "The Senate's done that for quite some time. In fact, the current members who have a problem got it somewhere else, not here in the Senate."

And Sen. Roy Johnson (R-WI), who has tested positive, said if he had to, he would show up in a "moon suit" to attend an in-person Senate floor vote to confirm Barrett.

"Where there is a will, there's a way," he said. "We can do these things."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.