Klobuchar calls on Senate to delay Barrett confirmation: ‘Better for safety, better for the country’

Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Sunday said the Senate should wait until after the presidential election to move on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court — not just because of how close the nomination is to the election, as Democrats have said in recent weeks, but also for “safety” reasons after multiple Republican senators tested positive for the coronavirus.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., made the comments in a conversation with Fox News’ Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” Wallace asked Klobuchar if Democrats would try to use the Republicans coronavirus tests to delay Barrett’s confirmation despite the fact that the Senate has held virtual hearings regularly for months.

“It’s not a matter of using it, it happened,” Klobuchar responded. “We’ve got the fact that now three senators have it, as you point out two are on the Judiciary Committee. And Mitch McConnell has shut the Senate down for two weeks because of health concerns.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., answers a question Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. Klobuchar Sunday called on Republicans to delay the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., answers a question Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. Klobuchar Sunday called on Republicans to delay the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Klobuchar added: “We don’t know how many other Republican senators have it … they have a lunch together where they don’t have masks … it’s very possible we’re going to have more senators, more staff. So I don’t know why you would ram through this Supreme Court hearing, put people in danger because it would be within that two-week period, while you have shut down the whole Senate.”

The comments by Klobuchar, herself on the Judiciary Committee, come after multiple Senate Republicans including Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., have tested positive for the coronavirus, potentially throwing a wrench into GOP plans to confirm Barrett before the month is out.

After the positive tests, Senate Republicans have said they will proceed “full speed ahead” with hearings for Barrett on Oct. 12, even if that means some senators are participating virtually.

Committee Democrats, led by Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have called on Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to delay the hearings.

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“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,” a statement from Feinstein and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday.

“In addition, there is bipartisan agreement that a virtual confirmation hearing for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench is not an acceptable substitute,” the Democratic senators added. “All circuit court nominees have appeared in person during the pandemic, and there is far more at stake for the American people with this Supreme Court nomination, including the Affordable Care Act being struck down and more than 7 million COVID survivors being denied health coverage.”

Depending on when Lee, Johnson and Tillis recover, however, the floor vote to confirm Barrett could be put at risk given the fact that Republicans have a slip 53-47 majority in the Senate and two GOP senators have already said they have qualms about the timing of the confirmation effort so close to the election. And if the GOP caucus is not at full strength, Democrats could have some procedural avenues to delay the nomination open up to them, including boycotting hearings or a vote to deprive Republicans of quorum.

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Klobuchar added that an in-person hearing would be important for a justice on “the highest court in the land” so that senators can “go back and forth with the nominee.”

“Given her views on the Affordable Care Act. Given that she has clearly criticized Justice Roberts, who again is not exactly a blazing liberal, for upholding the constitutionality for the Affordable Care Act, which allows people to keep their insurance when they’ve got preexisting conditions,” Klobuchar said. “Why would you ram … this through when we don’t even have a COVID package done to make sure people have health care.”

She said working on a COVID package is a better use of time for the elected officials.

“Why would we be doing this instead of actually helping the American people?” she said. “Wait until after the election. Better for safety, better for the country.”

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