WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Despite a coronavirus outbreak at the White House that infected Republicans in Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee is still moving full steam ahead with the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Next week’s committee hearings with Barrett have moved to the hybrid model lawmakers have followed for months, but many committee members still plan to appear in person with more safety protocols in place.
“A Judiciary Committee hearing has been called, and by God, I’m going to be there,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA. “We are going forward.”
Kennedy and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, will question Barrett from inside the hearing room, though members will have the option to participate virtually.
“For the Judiciary Committee, we’ve done about 21 of these hearings and have had no problem at all,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn was at Barrett’s nomination ceremony that’s now seen as superspreader event, after nearly a dozen attendees, including two Republican Senate Judiciary Committee members, have tested positive for COVID-19.
“I have had several tests,” Blackburn said. “I have tested negative.”
With the Senate on recess because of safety concerns, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said holding a committee hearing now is just too dangerous.
“Chairman Graham should halt this already illegitimate nomination process, and if he refuses, he must put into place a thorough testing procedure that is in accordance with CDC best practices before hearings can take place,” Schumer said in a statement.
“He’s going to say we’re all going to die if we hold this hearing,” Kennedy said. “He is going to accuse the judge of everything from being a fascist to threatening to sell her children to wolves.”
The Democrats on the committee sent a letter to the Justice Department this week, urging the assistant attorney general to provide any missing materials from the Senate Judiciary Questionnaire Barrett completed, specifically a 2006 newspaper ad she signed sponsored by an anti-abortion group.
They wrote, “Absent from those materials was a 2006 open letter, bearing Judge Barrett’s name, that opposed women’s reproductive freedoms and explicitly called for overturning Roe v. Wade. For example, the letter referred to ‘the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade.’”
The senators continued, “The failure to disclose the 2006 letter leads to additional questions about other potentially missing materials. The omission also raises concerns that the process of collecting materials responsive to the SJQ, like the nomination process itself, has been rushed for no legitimate reason.”
But Kennedy called it the latest ploy by Democrats to derail Barrett’s confirmation.
“Before it’s over, they’ll call her Rosemary’s baby,” he said.
The hearings, which start Monday, will last through Oct. 15 with a confirmation vote on the Senate floor expected one week before Election Day.
“Senator Schumer wants to vote in February. Most of my Republican colleagues in the Senate want to vote next Tuesday. We’re going to meet in the middle and vote before Election Day,” Kennedy said. “I feel very confident about that.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said as of Wednesday, Barrett met with nearly every Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.