Chris Coons, the voice of desperation

Speaking against the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, Delaware senator Chris Coons argued that the hearing shouldn't be taking place in the middle of a pandemic, especially after an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Senate.

An outbreak in the Senate?  Where have I been?  I could only recall three cases, but clearly, the senator must know better.  It took only seconds to ascertain who was infected in the Senate.  Apart from Rand Paul on March 22 and Bill Cassidy on August 20, the only senators in Coons's "recent outbreak" are Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, who both tested positive on October 2, and Ron Johnson, who tested positive a day later.  While others may have quarantined due to exposure, no other senator was infected.  Of even greater significance, Mike Lee is the only senator in this supposed rash of cases who actually got sick.  Thom Tillis had mild symptoms that passed quickly, including loss of taste and smell.  Ron Johnson had no symptoms.

If we throw Thom Tillis into the "tested positive and had symptoms" pot along with Mike Lee, that means only 2% of senators contracted COVID and developed symptoms.  Wow, some outbreak.  They were so sick that they both managed to appear in person at the Barrett hearings.  So Coons didn't exactly lie but did mischaracterize the facts.  I suppose calling it an outbreak bolsters the Democrat's very weak argument that this "isn't the time" to confirm Barrett in the midst of a pandemic and an outbreak in the very Senate constitutionally tasked to confirm her, not to mention during an election year.

By now, most of us understand that it was the difference in parties between Obama and the Senate in 2016 that precluded Merrick Garland's confirmation hearing.  Republicans haven't done a good job explaining to the public that the Republican-controlled Senate would not have confirmed Garland's nomination, and that is why it was tabled.  In contrast, the parties of President Trump and Senate are the same, so Barrett's confirmation is a fait accompli.

This will not stop the Democrats from arguing that this is a rush job.  But neither Trump nor the Senate is rushing anything.  Another thing Republicans should make clear is that the reason this nomination is so close to an election is not due to some nefarious calculation on Trump's part, as the Democrats plead, but because of the timing of Justice Ginsburg's death.  The world doesn't stop spinning just because a liberal icon passed away.  Trump and the Senate can still fulfill their constitutional obligations in plenty of time, even though the Democrats don't like it.  They can walk (deal with COVID) and chew gum (confirm her nomination) at the same time. 

Coons also disingenuously claimed that the Senate has no procedures to deal with such an outbreak.  If that were true, the blame for that would fall squarely on the shoulders of the Senate, not the White House.  They've had almost eight months to shore up their guidelines dictating Senate protocol in a time of COVID-19.  But Coons distorts the facts yet again.  According to govtrack, both the House and Senate have adapted their procedures to keep legislators and support staff safe while also keeping Congress operational.

On May 15, the House passed a rules change to allow proxy voting for floor votes and remote committee committee meetings during this pandemic (see the committee report for further background). Then, pursuant to the new rules, on May 19 the House's Office of Attending Physician and Sergeant at Arms determined the existence of a "public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus," which triggered the beginning of proxy voting rules. Under the rules for proxy voting, representatives may designate another representative as their proxy in advance of votes in a letter to the Clerk of the House of Representatives and must give their proxy exact instructions on how to vote.

In the Senate, although no proxy voting is allowed for floor votes, some Senate committees have begun holding some meetings with senators participating remotely. And while not yet used, existing Senate rules may permit voting by proxy in committee.

Pointing out disparities like this is not the sexiest part of the nomination hearings.  But it is our job to call the Democrats out on their lies, obfuscations, and exaggerations as often as we can.  Democrats sitting on the judiciary committee, like Coons, thankfully make that an easy task.

Speaking against the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, Delaware senator Chris Coons argued that the hearing shouldn't be taking place in the middle of a pandemic, especially after an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Senate.

An outbreak in the Senate?  Where have I been?  I could only recall three cases, but clearly, the senator must know better.  It took only seconds to ascertain who was infected in the Senate.  Apart from Rand Paul on March 22 and Bill Cassidy on August 20, the only senators in Coons's "recent outbreak" are Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, who both tested positive on October 2, and Ron Johnson, who tested positive a day later.  While others may have quarantined due to exposure, no other senator was infected.  Of even greater significance, Mike Lee is the only senator in this supposed rash of cases who actually got sick.  Thom Tillis had mild symptoms that passed quickly, including loss of taste and smell.  Ron Johnson had no symptoms.

If we throw Thom Tillis into the "tested positive and had symptoms" pot along with Mike Lee, that means only 2% of senators contracted COVID and developed symptoms.  Wow, some outbreak.  They were so sick that they both managed to appear in person at the Barrett hearings.  So Coons didn't exactly lie but did mischaracterize the facts.  I suppose calling it an outbreak bolsters the Democrat's very weak argument that this "isn't the time" to confirm Barrett in the midst of a pandemic and an outbreak in the very Senate constitutionally tasked to confirm her, not to mention during an election year.

By now, most of us understand that it was the difference in parties between Obama and the Senate in 2016 that precluded Merrick Garland's confirmation hearing.  Republicans haven't done a good job explaining to the public that the Republican-controlled Senate would not have confirmed Garland's nomination, and that is why it was tabled.  In contrast, the parties of President Trump and Senate are the same, so Barrett's confirmation is a fait accompli.

This will not stop the Democrats from arguing that this is a rush job.  But neither Trump nor the Senate is rushing anything.  Another thing Republicans should make clear is that the reason this nomination is so close to an election is not due to some nefarious calculation on Trump's part, as the Democrats plead, but because of the timing of Justice Ginsburg's death.  The world doesn't stop spinning just because a liberal icon passed away.  Trump and the Senate can still fulfill their constitutional obligations in plenty of time, even though the Democrats don't like it.  They can walk (deal with COVID) and chew gum (confirm her nomination) at the same time. 

Coons also disingenuously claimed that the Senate has no procedures to deal with such an outbreak.  If that were true, the blame for that would fall squarely on the shoulders of the Senate, not the White House.  They've had almost eight months to shore up their guidelines dictating Senate protocol in a time of COVID-19.  But Coons distorts the facts yet again.  According to govtrack, both the House and Senate have adapted their procedures to keep legislators and support staff safe while also keeping Congress operational.

On May 15, the House passed a rules change to allow proxy voting for floor votes and remote committee committee meetings during this pandemic (see the committee report for further background). Then, pursuant to the new rules, on May 19 the House's Office of Attending Physician and Sergeant at Arms determined the existence of a "public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus," which triggered the beginning of proxy voting rules. Under the rules for proxy voting, representatives may designate another representative as their proxy in advance of votes in a letter to the Clerk of the House of Representatives and must give their proxy exact instructions on how to vote.

In the Senate, although no proxy voting is allowed for floor votes, some Senate committees have begun holding some meetings with senators participating remotely. And while not yet used, existing Senate rules may permit voting by proxy in committee.

Pointing out disparities like this is not the sexiest part of the nomination hearings.  But it is our job to call the Democrats out on their lies, obfuscations, and exaggerations as often as we can.  Democrats sitting on the judiciary committee, like Coons, thankfully make that an easy task.