Are you sure you want to delete this post?
A coronavirus outbreak that infected President Trump and spread to the Senate threw a fresh element of uncertainty on Friday into the politically fraught fight over installing Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court before Election Day, as Republicans vowed to press ahead and Democrats insisted on a pause.
Pulling off a complex confirmation that touches all three branches of government in the four weeks remaining before the election always promised to be a daunting task for Republicans in the middle of a pandemic. But by Friday evening, with the White House and Congress in turmoil and two Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, among those announcing they had tested positive for the virus, it was clear that the challenge had grown steeper.
Top Republicans insisted they would move ahead at an uncommonly swift pace to hold hearings on Judge Barrett’s nomination by Oct. 12, send her nomination to the full Senate by Oct. 22 and confirm her as soon as Oct. 26, eight days before Election Day — even if it meant breaking Senate norms and considering a lifetime judicial nomination by videoconference. But the latest outbreak raised the possibility that Republicans could lose their slim majority in the Judiciary Committee or on the Senate floor.
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have already raised objections to moving ahead before the election, reducing the wiggle room in the 53-47 Republican majority.
Let's to the math.
If Lee and Tillis quarantine for 14 days, the EARLIEST that votes could be taken would be October 17. If any of the eight Republican senators who were present in the Rose Garden test positive, that pushes the time line back further.
As of right now, the Republicans have 49 votes, and Pence's vote would not give them the 51 votes that they neeed.
It gave Democrats, who were already objecting to Mr. Trump’s push to install a new Supreme Court justice so close to the election, a new reason to call for a delay. Seeing a potential opening, top Democrats called for the Senate to pause and assess the scope of the outbreak. They declared that a fully virtual hearing for a candidate for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court would be unacceptable.
Mr. Lee and Mr. Tillis were among at least eight Republican senators present at the White House event, where some guests also gathered indoors and where video captured Mr. Lee hugging other attendees without a mask. Mr. Tillis wore a mask.
Both men are on the Judiciary Committee and met with Judge Barrett on Capitol Hill this week indoors, without masks, as did more than a dozen others.