Sen. Joni Ernst: Judiciary Committee members should get coronavirus tests before SCOTUS confirmation hearings

Brianne Pfannenstiel
Des Moines Register

CARROLL, Ia. — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said Saturday she believes members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should be tested for the coronavirus before beginning confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett Monday.

"I actually do think that it would be smart to do that," she told reporters at a stop on her two-day motorcycle ride Saturday. "I hate to do (testing) without having reasons to do so, but I think if we're going to be working in close proximity over long hours it's probably not a bad idea."

The committee is scheduled to begin those hearings Monday, Oct. 12. But even after two of its members tested positive for the virus last week — Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina — not every member has committed to taking a test.

More:Iowa's congressional delegation, staff report no new coronavirus cases — but there's very little testing

Iowa's U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley sits on the committee but said last week he would not take a test

And Republican committee chairman, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, allowed a South Carolina Senate debate to be canceled rather than cede to demands from his Democratic challenger that he take a coronavirus test. 

Both Grassley and Graham attended a meeting with Lee the day before Lee tested positive.

"She’s right, but will Senator Ernst do anything if Senators Graham and Grassley refuse?" Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York tweeted Saturday in response to the news. "Or is this just an empty statement? So far Republicans have shown themselves to be as reckless with the health of Senators, staff, and workers as they are with the health of Americans."

Ernst is in the midst of a tight re-election battle with Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. The most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll showed Greenfield leading Ernst by 3 percentage points. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. 

Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at bpfann@dmreg.com or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.

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