Opinion: The Chief Justice race intensifies


Illustration by Marissa Haas.

President Donald Trump and other Republican senators got infected with COVID-19 this week after attending an event at the White House where Trump announced the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. This could be a real horror for other Republicans Senators because every vote is invaluable for her confirmation. Although the Democrats have argued to postpone the process, Republicans don’t seem to budge a bit and are keen about getting their job done – which is unethical.

Lindsey Graham, Judiciary Committee chairman and Republican senator from South Carolina, is adamant about keeping the process on track to meet the quick timeline for Judge confirmation. GOP Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who is also in the Judiciary Committee, has isolated himself for 10 days due to COVID, but has announced he will be back for Barret’s confirmation on time. 

Barrett’s qualifications are unquestionable. As an erudite scholar with a profound knowledge of the Constitution, she would make an excellent Chief Justice. However, given this situation, senators must have different priorities. The Republicans seem nonsensically ruthless in completing their task. Bringing COVID-19 in the same chamber as non-infected senators could be disastrous, regardless if they are Republicans or Democrats, as a majority of them are older people more at risk of death. 

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, “It is premature for Chairman Graham to commit to a hearing schedule when we do not know the full extent of potential exposure stemming from the president’s infection and before the White House puts in place a contact tracing plan to prevent further spread of the disease.” 

He also mentioned that the Democrats won’t accept a virtual senate hearing. Conducting the hearings remotely would have been possible for other events, but the nomination of a Chief Justice to the Supreme Court that will tilt its ideological position for decades to come is a decision to be done in person. 

Politics aside, this should be a serious concern for all lawmakers involved. Democrats should not mirror the hubris of Republican senators, who did not even wear a face-covering at the nomination event. There is increasing evidence of the indifference of Republican senators towards public health. Their continual pressure to reopen without necessary precautions and killing the stimulus bill that helps people affected by the crashing economy despite everything shows they were never serious about the pandemic at all.

Republican senators and Trump should know that if COVID-19infects a couple more Republican senators, they will be short of the required quorum and all the haste for a new Justice will amount to nothing. The myopic president and the senators also should consider their defeat in the upcoming election should they continue on this way. Talking about the importance of compliance with the law when they got sick by breaking the same guidelines is ridiculously hypocritically and not a great look. 

The quest for power in the Supreme Court has crossed its limits. The unruly, unethical and crass behavior of the Republican senators shows not only the shifting ideology of the nation’s judiciary, but foretells a nation where hypocrisy fares better than reason. Thus, the nomination process should not be continued until after the election to ensure the protection of lawmakers, sending a positive message to a nation still debilitated by the pandemic.