Sens. Mike Lee from Utah and Thom Tillis from North Carolina, who sit on the Justice Committee, tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday – just days after attending an event at the White House where President Donald Trump nominated Barrett. Several attendees at that event, including Trump, have tested positive in the week since the ceremony, which saw many people not wearing masks and not following social distancing protocols.
Johnson did not attend the Barrett nomination ceremony, which appeared to have several people exposed to the virus, as he quarantined himself after a previous exposure that tested negative for the virus twice, according to the spokesman.
Unlike Democratic Senators, Senate Republicans meet three times a week for lunch. And while they are sitting in a large room, they take off their masks to eat and speak. Johnson, Lee, and Tillis attended the Senate GOP lunches this week.
If the three senators stayed out this month, it would effectively prevent Barrett from being retried in the Supreme Court until they return, which could be during a lame duck session after election day. A lame duck affirmation is a situation that GOP leaders are keen to avoid in case they lose control of the chamber next month.
Indeed, if they lose their majority ̵
Sens. Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska have previously indicated that they are “no” votes if the confirmatory vote takes place prior to the election and could also vote against a candidate in a lame duck session.
With a 53-47 majority in the Senate, Republicans can’t afford to lose more than three Senators to validate the nomination.
Senate Justice Chairman Lindsey Graham told CNN on Friday evening that he intends to push and hold the hearings from October 12th and seek to approve the nomination by October 22nd to approve the nomination , and the absence of Lee and Tillis could prevent this if the Democrats boycott the trial.
Johnson is not on the judiciary committee but could not vote on the spot if he wasn’t there. Johnson’s office said the Wisconsin Senator was re-exposed “shortly after” his return to Washington on September 29 and tested Friday afternoon.
“This test came back positive. Senator Johnson feels healthy and has no symptoms. He will remain in isolation until his doctor gives the all-clear,” Voelkel said in a statement.
Most of the staff in the Republican Senator’s Washington office have worked remotely, and the office will be entirely virtual for the immediate future, Voelkel said.
This story has been updated with additional background information and context.
CNN’s Megan Trimble and Terence Burlij contributed to this story.