Pandemic sharpens Senate struggle | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 06, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:41 AM, October 06, 2020


Pandemic sharpens Senate struggle

While Donald Trump is intent on getting his recent Supreme Court nominee confirmed before the November 3 presidential election, the eruption of Covid-19 into the Senate and the innermost circles of the White House has complicated the calendar.

A week ago, in the midst of his re-election campaign, the president summoned 150 invitees to a pomp-filled ceremony on the White House lawn  -- with few masks in evidence -- to announce his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the now-vacant ninth seat on the US Supreme Court.

Trump is counting on his choice of the conservative judge, who opposes abortion rights, to galvanize voters on the religious right.

If confirmed as expected, Barrett will replace feminist and progressive icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died September 18.

But at least seven participants, including three Republicans, invited in the White House ceremony have since tested positive for the coronavirus, beginning with the president.

Barrett, who may have gained immunity from an earlier bout of Covid-19, has since tested negative.

Their illness complicates matters: the US Constitution charges the upper house of Congress with vetting and confirming a president's judicial appointees.

Republicans control 53 of the 100 seats in the Senate, but two of them -- Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski -- have said they oppose any vote before the election.

If the three ill senators were unable to return soon, their absence could deprive the party of its majority.

Meantime, Democrats are insisting on an in-person vote and demanding that the process be delayed.

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