McConnell moves to delay Senate return after 3 lawmakers test positive for COVID-19

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell hints Senate will vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick before election GOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus The Hill’s Campaign Report: Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis upends 2020 race | Biden pushes ahead on the campaign trail | Senate moving forward with Supreme Court nominee hearings MORE (R-Ky.) will move to delay the Senate’s return for two weeks after three lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19. 

McConnell said the Senate will not return until Oct. 19 and will only meet in pro forma sessions for the next two weeks, allowing a smaller number of lawmakers to be on Capitol Hill. Previously-scheduled floor activity will take place after Oct. 19. 

McConnell said in a statement he “[intends] to obtain a consent agreement” to have the chamber go on hiatus until Oct. 19, meaning Democrats can object to the move.

A spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCalls for COVID-19 tests at Capitol grow after Trump tests positive GOP struggles to play defense on Trump’s ObamaCare lawsuit Vulnerable Republicans break with Trump on ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (D-N.Y.) did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

The Senate was in session last week and had been scheduled to return this coming Monday. 

The announcement comes after Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTrump given Remdesivir as treatment for COVID-19 infection Kellyanne Conway tests positive for COVID-19 McConnell hints Senate will vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick before election MORE (R-Utah), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump given Remdesivir as treatment for COVID-19 infection Kellyanne Conway tests positive for COVID-19 McConnell hints Senate will vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick before election MORE (R-N.C.) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election MORE (R-Wis.) all announced they have tested positive for the coronavirus. Lee and Tillis are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and were at the White House last Saturday for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump campaign manager tests positive for COVID-19 Trump given Remdesivir as treatment for COVID-19 infection ICE launching billboard campaign highlighting ‘at-large immigration violators’ MORE’s announcement that he was picking Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee. 

Trump has also tested positive for COVID-19 and is now at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a decision the White House said was taken “out of an abundance of caution.”

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseGOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus Trump’s test sparks fears of spread: Here’s who he met in last week McConnell: Next Trump-Biden debate should be more respectful MORE (R-Neb.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, was also at the White House last week. Though he tested negative, he still plans to work remotely from Nebraska until Oct. 12 as he receives further testing.

Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus GOP Sen. Mike Lee tests positive for coronavirus President Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Ky.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyGOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus GOP Sen. Mike Lee tests positive for coronavirus President Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-La.) were the only two senators to previously test positive for the virus prior to this week, receiving their diagnoses in March and August, respectively.

The absence of the four Republican lawmakers cuts down McConnell’s normal 53-47 majority to just 49 senators.

The delay and diagnoses come as the Senate GOP looks to swiftly confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgKellyanne Conway tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill’s Campaign Report: Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis upends 2020 race | Biden pushes ahead on the campaign trail | Senate moving forward with Supreme Court nominee hearings High-stakes election disputes headed for Supreme Court MORE, but McConnell said the move will not impact the start of her confirmation hearings, which are set to begin on Oct. 12.

“The important work of the Senate’s committees can and will continue as each committee sees fit. The Senate Judiciary Committee will convene on October 12th as Chairman Graham has scheduled to begin confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair, and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out by Chairman Graham,” he said, referring to Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell hints Senate will vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick before election GOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus GOP Sen. Mike Lee tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-S.C.), the Judiciary panel’s chairman. 

“Since May, the Judiciary Committee has operated flawlessly through a hybrid method that has seen some Senators appear physically at its hearings while other members have participated virtually. The Committee has utilized this format successfully for many months while protecting the health and safety of all involved. Certainly all Republican members of the committee will participate in these important hearings,” McConnell continued.

Graham confirmed in a separate statement that the hearings will not be delayed.

The rapid spread of the virus in Washington has spurred renewed conversations about an offer from the White House to provide rapid testing on Capitol Hill, a proposition McConnell and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Economy adds 661K jobs in final report before Election Day | House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall | Stand-alone bill to provide relief for airlines blocked on House floor Overnight Healthcare: President Trump has coronavirus Pelosi tests negative for COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.) had previously rebuffed. 

“This episode demonstrates that the Senate needs a testing and contact tracing program for Senators, staff, and all who work in the Capitol complex. We simply cannot allow the administration’s cavalier attitude to adversely affect this branch of government,” Schumer said in a statement this week.

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