Senate Republicans Do Poor Job Masking At Coney Barrett Hearing

Two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee may have tested positive for COVID-19, but Republicans on the committee are doing a poor job of wearing their masks.


Sen. Mike Lee speaks as Sen. John Cornyn leaves his mask off.

Both Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) contracted the disease.


Lee was cleared by the physician of Congress to leave his quarantine, just at the 10-day point from his positive test. Tillis attended remotely.


Guidelines require that lawmakers wear masks, except when speaking, when they most congregate indoors for an extended period. But neither that proscription nor the object lessons of senators getting sick convinced all the lawmakers to closely follow the rules.


Lee in particular could be seen for lengthy periods failing to keep his mouth and nose covered. Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham almost never wore his mask, though he was seen putting it on to talk to the Democrats' top-ranking member of the committee, 87-year-old Sen. Diane Feinstein.


Sen. Marsha Blackburn lets her mask dangle.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), whose state remains a COVID hotspot, often had her mask off. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), usually had his on, but let it down even while Lee was talking.


Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also paid little attention to keeping her covering up.


On the Democratic side, lawmakers where much more diligent, though Feinstein did leave hers dangling from an ear for a while, before realizing she hadn't replaced it.


Graham defended the decision to hold the hearing during a break -- and the decision not to require testing of the members -- though he did not address members not wearing masks.


Sen. Joni Ernst fails to wear her mask.

"You can't demand that all of your colleagues be tested before you go to work, if there's no reason. I was tested a week ago Friday. I was negative. I feel fine," Graham told reporters. "The CDC guidelines do not require quarantine or testing, in my case, and I'll leave it up to every member. But there are millions of Americans going to work today, in restaurants, police officers, you name it, who can't demand they won't come to work unless everybody around them is tested, whether they need to, or not. So we're running this hearing safely. It has been set up CDC compliant. And we will move forward."


Yet, less than an hour later, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) looked around the room, and did not agree his colleagues were doing their best.


"This is not normal," Booker said, arguing that Republicans simply are desperate to get a judge who will overturn the Affordable Care Act before they lose the presidency -- so desperate they are "failing to take in this hearing even the most basic safety protections to protect people around them, all to ensure the tens of millions of people will lose their health care."

(Photos courtesy of press poolers Lisa Desjardins and Trish Turner.)

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