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Supreme Court replacement at any cost : The US Republicans want to get infected senators to vote if necessary
If everything weren't so dramatic, you'd find it ironic: of all things, a victory celebration could go down in history as the cause of a major crisis in the Republican Party. On Saturday a week ago, US President Donald Trump and his closest circle, especially many Republican senators, gathered in the rose garden of the White House to celebrate the nomination of the conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court.
The military band played patriotic songs like "Hail to the Chief", the mood was festive and exuberant - because in the previous days it had become clear that the Republicans had the majority for Barrett's confirmation.
Many of the more than 150 guests hugged each other, shook hands, hardly anyone was wearing a mask, although the seating was very tight. It was celebrated that Barrett, the Senate agreed, would increase the Republican majority in the Supreme Court from five to four to six to three before the November 3rd elections. The 48-year-old is said to be the successor to the liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died the week before.
But after the celebration, now known as a "superspreading event", in addition to President Trump, who has been hospitalized since Friday evening, and First Lady Melania, at least three Republican senators have now tested positive for the corona virus: Mike Lee (Utah), Thom Tillis ( North Carolina) and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin). Lee and Tillis, who attended the ceremony, are also members of the judicial committee. Johnson said he was later infected in Washington.
The Judiciary Committee and then the entire Senate must meet to vote on Barrett's appeal. The Republicans only have a slim majority with 53 votes out of a total of 100. So if the three senators get seriously ill, this majority is at risk. Two moderate Republican Senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have already made it clear that they oppose Barrett's endorsement before the election.
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In response to the infections, Senate Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell suspended all plenary sessions for the next two weeks to prevent the virus from spreading further in the Senate.
But the power tactician McConnell, who apparently wants to go through with the process at all costs, ordered that the Judiciary Committee should start with the Barrett's multi-day hearing on October 12 as planned. The vote in the Senate plenary is scheduled for October 26th, just a week before the presidential and congressional elections.
Barrett is supposed to support a group that takes extreme anti-abortion positions
The Democrats, who are already demanding that the winner of the presidential election decide who will fill the position of influence, are outraged. Members of the judiciary committee argue that continuing the work will endanger the health of those involved. For all that is known so far, their worries are justified.
According to the New York Times, McConnell is already planning in the event that more Republican senators have to go into quarantine or that Tillis, Lee or Johnson fall ill. Consideration is being given to holding the vote of the judiciary committee in the large plenary hall. There infected senators could be placed in the gallery to keep the necessary distance.
Republican committee chairman Lindsey Graham suggested that the Senators could also take part in the meetings via videoconference. Unlike the democratically run House of Representatives, which changed its rules in the corona crisis so that absent MPs can vote, senators have to be physically present to cast a vote.
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With Barrett, who, like all judges, would be elected for life, the Conservatives would get a dominant majority in the Supreme Court - a security guarantee in the event that Trump loses the election and the Democrats may have a majority in the Senate in addition to the House of Representatives after November.
The Supreme Court repeatedly negotiates questions that are of enormous socio-political relevance, such as immigration, health care or the right to abortion. The Democrats warn, among other things, that Barrett would likely vote for President Barack Obama's health care reform to be abolished. A Guardian report also revealed that Garrett publicly supported, at least in 2006, a group that advocated extreme anti-abortion positions.
The St Joseph County Right to Life group from South Bend, Indiana, argues that life begins with fertilization, not with implantation of the embryo or the viability of the fetus. The activists also take the position that doctors who perform abortions should be prosecuted and that the disposal of frozen or unused embryos that result from in vitro fertilization should be a criminal offense. Barrett had signed an ad placed by the group at the time.
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