By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Oct 12 (Reuters) – The risk of COVID-19 loomed Monday at the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett to be a judge of the United States Supreme Court, with a Senate courtroom where the children of the candidate and at least one legislator have tested positive for the disease.
Republican President Donald Trump formally nominated Barrett in a packed ceremony at the White House on Sept. 26. Days later, he and a series of counselors tested positive for the respiratory disease that has killed more than 214,000 people in the United States.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a member of the Judiciary Committee and a candidate for the vice presidency for the Democratic Party, said the hearing should have been postponed due to the recent wave of infections.
Republican Senator Mike Lee, one of two Senate Judiciary Committee members who tested positive, attended the hearing in person on Monday.
“I feel great!” Said Lee, who wore a blue surgical mask, when he entered the courtroom on Monday, nine days after revealing his positive test, which would normally lead to a 10 to 14-day quarantine.
Video: Trump gives covid-19 negative in quick test (Dailymotion)
Lee removed his mask to make his opening remarks to the hearing, which included some of the Senate’s oldest members, as well as Barrett’s husband, children and brothers.
Democrats and many public health experts have attacked Trump for his handling of a pandemic that has killed more people in the United States than in any other country.
Harris, who spoke by video, said the commission had been reckless as Republicans struggled to confirm Barrett before the election.
“This committee has ignored common sense requests to keep people safe – including not requiring testing for all members – despite a coronavirus outbreak among senators on this same committee,” he said.
Barrett’s nomination by Trump to a vacancy created by the death last month of progressive icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before the election enraged Democrats, still outraged by Republicans’ refusal to consider a candidate for Democratic President Barack. Obama about 10 months before the 2016 election.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican chair of the committee and a close Trump ally, insisted that enough had been done.
“We have set up a room in a way that we can conduct our business safely,” he said.
(Report by Patricia Zengerle, Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)