The Senate is shut down by Covid-19 infections, but Republicans are refusing to delay confirmation of President Donald Trump's pick for the Supreme Court.
They are even willing to make special arrangements so sick senators can vote, and Democrats appear powerless to stop them.
The push to put conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the high court before November 3 is like nothing seen in US history so close to a presidential election.
Trump's nomination of Barrett in a Rose Garden ceremony apparently became ground zero for the infections now gripping the president, his White House and its Senate allies.
Three GOP senators have now tested positive for the virus and several more are quarantined at home — denying Republicans a functioning majority.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Judiciary Committee, said after talking by phone Monday with Trump that the president is “very excited about Judge Amy Coney Barrett being confirmed to the Supreme Court.” The rapid pursuit of Trump's third court nominee is as much about securing a conservative court for a generation to come as it is about giving Republicans what they see as their best chances at reelection.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the chamber would close to legislating through October 19 over the Covid-19 infections, but the court hearings will go on as scheduled.
With Trump trailing Democrat Joe Biden in polls and their own Senate majority at risk, Republicans hope a Supreme Court vote in the week before Election Day will save their jobs.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that the Republican leadership “has truly lost touch with reality if it's contemplating marching Covid-stricken members to the Senate to rush through a Supreme Court nominee.” As the Covid-19 crisis envelops the Capitol, hearings are set to begin in one week on Barrett's nomination.
There is still no mandatory, routine, on-site testing protocol for lawmakers and staff, drawing a near revolt from staff in some offices worried about the health risks.
The Judiciary Committee is planning four days of hearings ahead of a final Senate vote October 29.
Over the weekend, one senator suggested senators can vote from sickbeds if need be.
There's a long tradition of ill senators “being wheeled in to cast critical votes,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on Fox News Channel.
Senators on the Judiciary Committee will have the option of connecting virtually, which will be needed as two of the panel's Republicans, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen.