MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)— Three Republican senators, including Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, all tested positive for COVID-19 this week — promoting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call off in-person Senate meetings for two weeks.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee began exhibiting symptoms on Thursday at the United States Capitol. That’s the same day he sat next to Johnson, who has now tested positive.
On a conference call Saturday, Johnson held strong on his personal choice to keep working and living life during the pandemic.
“I’ve done everything I can to try and avoid it, other than extremely isolate myself from society, which I don’t think we should be doing. You except risk in life. Life is a risk,” Johnson said.
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis also tested positive this week. Tillis and Lee are both on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is still scheduled to begin hearings on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court in nine days.
Democrats call it “reckless” to hold Barrett’s confirmation hearing this soon, while so many senators are sick or quarantined as a precaution.
On Sunday morning, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke to Chris Wallace on Fox News to voice that opinion.
“It’s very possible we’re going to have more senators, more staff [testing positive], so I don’t know why you would ram through this Supreme Court hearing, put people in danger because it would be in that two-week period while you have shut down the whole Senate,” Klobuchar said. “I just think it’s wrong. We are suggesting that we wait.”
Republicans, who want to act on this confirmation before the election, insist the committee can take precautions, with some senators appearing remotely if needed.
McConnell says the confirmation process is going “full steam ahead.”
Democrats acknowledge there is little they can do to block Barrett’s hearing. However, a final vote in the full Senate would likely fail if one or more Republicans were still out sick and they lost their majority.
McConnell wrote in an email to GOP senators that he needs all Republican senators back in Washington D.C. by Oct. 19. That return day will be pending all of their recovery timelines.