Schumer Calls on Pence to Skip Barrett Vote, Citing Virus Fears

October 26, 2020 Updated: October 26, 2020

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a letter urged Vice President Mike Pence to skip Monday’s vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation after several of the vice president’s aides tested positive for the CCP virus.

Schumer wrote that Pence’s presence in the Senate chamber—which is customary for landmark votes as the vice president can break a tied vote—would violate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and it would also “be a violation of common decency and courtesy,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, is among several staff members in the vice president’s office to test positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

The vice president and second lady have both tested negative and are in good health, according to a Sunday statement by Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley, who on Saturday said Pence would not dial back in-person campaigning on grounds of his being an essential worker.

“While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” O’Malley said.

Vice President Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence addresses supporters at campaign rally in Tallahassee, Fla., on Oct. 24, 2020. (Steve Cannon/AP Photo)

Schumer, in a dear colleague letter to the Senate Democratic caucus, warned Pence could spread the virus in the Senate if he presides over Monday’s vote to confirm Barrett. He urged fellow Democrats not to congregate in the Senate chamber and vote quickly to avoid potential exposure.

“While CDC guidelines would dictate contract tracing and quarantining be practiced, our colleagues and the vice president have indicated that they do not intend to follow such protocols,” Schumer wrote. “The vice president is maintaining his campaign schedule and, inexplicably, intends to preside over the Senate chamber tomorrow evening. Considering the Republicans’ refusal to follow CDC guidelines regarding quarantining and contact tracing, I would recommend that you not congregate in the Senate chamber today and that you cast your votes quickly and from a safe distance.”

At a rally in Tallahassee, Florida, on Saturday, Pence said he “wouldn’t miss that vote for the world.”

Schumer, in his letter to Pence, called his presence in the Senate chamber “not a risk worth taking” and that “nothing about your presence in the Senate tomorrow can be considered essential.”

Republicans only need 51 votes to confirm a new justice, meaning that with a 53-member majority, the GOP can afford to lose up to three Republicans. Pence’s vote is unlikely to be needed to break a potential tie as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has said on several occasions he would confirm Barrett.

To date, Susan Collins (R-Maine) appears to be the only Republican poised to vote against, with all Democrats expected to vote no on President Donald Trump’s nominee.

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