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House Minority Whip Steve Scalise claimed Saturday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has thwarted efforts to conduct widespread coronavirus testing on Capitol Hill.
The allegations come as Senate Democrats attempt to use COVID-19 infections circulating between Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill to delay Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation.
What did Scalise say?
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the ranking member on the House Committee on House Administration has been urging Pelosi to implement “a comprehensive health monitoring system and testing program for our Capitol Hill campus in order to help us do our part to stop the spread of coronavirus.”
But she has so far refused to take action, Scalise explained on “Fox and Friends.”
“I mean these protocols have been out there and the testing capabilities have been out there for a long time. They were offered to the speaker and she turned it down,” Scalise said. “I think it’s something that should have been in Congress for a few weeks now. But ultimately that’s what the speaker decided to do.”
What’s the background?
Three Republican senators — Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Thom Tillis (N.C.), and Ron Johnson (Wis.) — have tested positive for COVID-19.
The development is significant because it may indicate a COVID-19 outbreak among lawmakers over the coming weeks. More importantly, Lee and Tillis are two senators who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee and will have a role to play as Barrett’s confirmation hearings begin next week.
Consequently, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is attempting to use the virus outbreak to delay Barrett’s confirmation process.
In a joint statement on Friday, Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said “this already illegitimate process will become a dangerous one” if Barrett’s confirmation hearings are not temporarily delayed.
“It’s critical that Chairman [Lindsey] Graham put the health of senators, the nominee, and staff first — and ensure a full and fair hearing that is not rushed, not truncated, and not virtual,” Schumer and Feinstein said.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday that Barrett’s confirmation hearings will proceed as scheduled.
In a statement, McConnell said he would seek “consent agreement for the Senate to meet in pro forma sessions for the next two weeks.” If Democrats agree, Senate floor activity would be halted until at least Oct. 19.
But, McConnell said, Barrett’s confirmation process would be unaffected by any delay.
“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair, and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out by Chairman Graham,” McConnell said.