Leahy Has No Virus Symptoms; Wants Confirmation Hearings Delayed | Off Message

Leahy Has No Virus Symptoms; Wants Confirmation Hearings Delayed


Sen. Patrick Leahy at a hearing on Thursday - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy at a hearing on Thursday
Updated at 10:20 p.m.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) has no coronavirus symptoms after attending a 90-minute hearing on Thursday with a Republican colleague who later tested positive, a spokesperson said Friday.

And amid a worsening COVID-19 outbreak on Capitol Hill, Leahy supports top Democratic leaders who are calling for a delay to the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, according to the senator's spokesperson, David Carle.

Among those with confirmed cases are President Donald Trump, one of his top aides and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Leahy. The two senators sat several seats away from each other during Thursday's hearing, the same day Lee came down with "symptoms consistent with longtime allergies." Lee, Leahy and a handful of other senators did not wear masks as they spoke at the hearing.

Carle said in an email that the 80-year-old senator has not been tested for the virus since Lee's diagnosis. Carle said that Leahy would follow the guidance of the Capitol physician, who suggested that the senator potentially be tested next week as a "precaution." Health experts say it usually takes a few days after exposure to produce a positive COVID-19 test result.

Another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced a positive result later Friday night: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina).

Tillis and Lee were among a packed crowd in the White House Rose Garden last Saturday as Trump announced Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee. Lee then met with Barrett on Tuesday before attending Thursday's hearing; Tillis met with the nominee on Wednesday.

Barrett, who reportedly had and recovered from COVID-19 over the summer, tested negative for the virus on Friday, the New York Times reported.

Trump announced early Friday morning that he and First Lady Melania Trump had contracted the disease. On Friday evening, the president was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for further treatment.

Leahy endorsed a Friday afternoon call from fellow top Senate Democrats to postpone Barrett's hearings before the Judiciary Committee until lawmakers knew the "full extent of the potential exposure" connected to Trump.

“The unfortunate news about the infection of our colleague Senator Mike Lee makes even more clear that health and safety must guide the schedule for all Senate activities, including hearings," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said in a statement, adding that failure to slow down the process would turn an "already illegitimate process" into a "dangerous one."

Schumer also called for Barrett to self-isolate given her potential exposure to Lee and President Trump.

In a statement of his own, Lee said that he would self-isolate for the next 10 days and be back in time for the hearings, which are scheduled to begin October 12. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the process would continue as scheduled.

Lee's infection has also fueled calls from federal lawmakers to institute a coronavirus testing and tracing program on Capitol Hill. Congress has met for months amid the pandemic without enacting consistent procedures for both lawmakers and its workforce.

“We simply cannot allow the administration’s cavalier attitude to adversely affect this branch of government," Schumer said in a statement. "It is imperative that all results be made public in order to contain a possible outbreak and so we can determine the need for senators and staff to quarantine or self-isolate.”

The Capitol physician's office announced Friday that COVID-19 testing was available for any lawmakers and staff aides who showed symptoms of the virus or had been exposed to someone who had tested positive.

Carle, Leahy's spokesperson, said the senator has not been told to quarantine.

Vermont officials weighed in on the flurry of national news during Gov. Phil Scott's regular press briefing on Friday. The Republican governor wished Trump a speedy recovery before saying that the president's diagnosis could be a "teaching moment."

"The virus doesn't discriminate," he said. "It doesn't matter who you are or how powerful you are." 

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