Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Friday that the upcoming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett must be postponed to allow Barrett and senators who were potentially exposed to the virus to be tested and isolate.
“It is premature for Chairman Graham to commit to a hearing schedule when we do not know the full extent of potential exposure stemming from the president’s infection and before the White House puts in place a contact tracing plan to prevent further spread of the disease,” the pair said in a statement.
President Trump announced in a tweet early Friday morning that he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus. They reportedly have mild symptoms and are quarantining at the White House. The president’s positive diagnosis came hours after reports that Hope Hicks, a senior White House advisor, tested positive for the virus and was experiencing some symptoms.
Republican Senator Mike Lee, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, has tested positive as well, just two days after he met with in-person with Barrett.
Schumer and Feinstein said in the statement that Lee’s illness underscored the importance of delaying the hearings.
“The unfortunate news about the infection of our colleague Senator Mike Lee makes even more clear that health and safety must guide the schedule for all Senate activities, including hearings,” the statement read.
Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins, who attended Barrett’s nomination announcement at the White House Rose Garden on Saturday, said Friday that he has also tested positive for coronavirus.
Trump nominated Barrett last month to fill the seat left vacant by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month due to complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer. Her death immediately upended the election cycle as Republicans work quickly to confirm a new justice and Democrats prepare to oppose Trump’s nominee to fill Ginsburg’s seat.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee plan to begin confirmation hearings on Barrett’s nomination on October 12.
Several Democrats have suggested or said directly that they are open to adding justices to the Court should Barrett be confirmed.
Schumer said last month that “nothing is off the table” if Democrats gain control of the Senate.