Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Health Care: Six Republicans break with party on ObamaCare vote | Pfizer CEO ‘disappointed’ vaccine discussed ‘in political terms’ | Trump Supreme Court pick signed ‘right to life’ statement in 2006 Democrat Cunningham raises record .3M in third quarter for bid against Tillis GOP rejects Schumer bill protecting ObamaCare amid Supreme Court fight MORE (N.C.) said on Friday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the second GOP senator who was at the White House on Saturday to be diagnosed with the virus.
“Over the last few months, I’ve been routinely tested for COVID-19, including testing negative last Saturday, but tonight my rapid antigen test came back positive,” Tillis said in a statement.
The news of Tillis’s diagnosis comes as Washington was upended after President TrumpDonald John TrumpPresident Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 Trump, first lady to quarantine after top aide tests positive for coronavirus Secret recordings show Melania Trump was frustrated about criticism of Trump 2018 border separation policy: CNN MORE disclosed that he had tested positive for the virus, jolting an already chaotic election year.
Tillis, who said he is currently asymptomatic, is the fourth senator known to have tested positive, and the second member of the Judiciary Committee.
Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPresident Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 On The Money: GOP cool to White House’s .6T coronavirus price tag | Company layoffs mount as pandemic heads into fall | Initial jobless claims drop to 837,000 GOP cool to White House’s .6T coronavirus price tag MORE (R-Ky.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyPresident Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 Coushatta tribe begins long road to recovery after Hurricane Laura Senators offer disaster tax relief bill MORE (R-La.) both announced they had tested positive in March and August, respectively. Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeComey defends FBI Russia probe from GOP criticism Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting Barrett to sit with McConnell and other GOP senators in back-to-back meetings MORE (R-Utah), who was also at the White House event on Saturday and was seen not wearing a mask, announced earlier Friday that he had tested positive. “I will be following the recommendations of my doctor and will be self-isolating at home for 10 days and notifying those I’ve been in close contact with,” said Tillis, who was seen in photos wearing a mask at the White House event.
Tillis, like Lee, participated in committee meetings and caucus lunches in the Capitol this week, and also interacted with reporters. Tillis is in the final stretch of a tough reelection fight against Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham, who has led the GOP senator in several recent polls. The two men faced off in a debate Thursday night. Cunningham said in a tweet Friday night that he will now get tested.
Tillis’s campaign said Friday night that staffers who were around the senator will now quarantine.
“The Tillis campaign staffers who were exposed to the Senator this week will now quarantine and will receive tests in the coming days. Our Charlotte campaign headquarters is now closed and we are halting all in-person campaign events until further notice,” said campaign manager Luke Blanchat. “Additionally, we are reaching out to any individuals who may have come into contact with Senator Tillis during the campaign events we held this week.”
The diagnosis for Tillis and Lee is injecting fresh uncertainty into the GOP timeline for trying to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Next Trump-Biden debate should be more respectful McConnell signals he’s open to confirming Supreme Court pick in lame duck House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Health Care: Six Republicans break with party on ObamaCare vote | Pfizer CEO ‘disappointed’ vaccine discussed ‘in political terms’ | Trump Supreme Court pick signed ‘right to life’ statement in 2006 Third-party candidate in SC senate race drops out, throws support behind Graham GOP super PAC preparing M ad blitz in South Carolina to boost Graham MORE (R-S.C.) both pledged earlier Friday that they would move ahead with Barrett’s nomination as planned, with a hearing set to start Oct. 12.
“Just finished a great phone call with @POTUS. He’s in good spirits and we talked business — especially how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett. Fullsteam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve,” McConnell said in a tweet.
Just finished a great phone call with @POTUS. He’s in good spirits and we talked business — especially how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett. Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve.
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) October 2, 2020
After the hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a vote on Barrett’s nomination Oct. 22, paving the way for a final Senate vote during the last week of October.
Both Tillis and Lee, according to timelines given in their statements, are planning to return to the Senate Judiciary Committee in time for the vote on Barrett’s nomination. But if they are still absent it would throw a curveball into Graham’s plans.
Though senators can vote by proxy in committee business meetings, aides confirmed Friday that those votes do not count if they change the outcome. Unlike on the Senate floor, there is not a tiebreaker in committees and a tie is the same as a nomination failing.
Four other members of the Judiciary Committee — Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyThe Hill’s Morning Report – Pelosi, Mnuchin make last-ditch effort for COVID-19 relief deal Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Trump, GOP aim to complete reshaping of federal judiciary MORE (R-Mo.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnNetflix distances from author’s comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Key Democrat opposes GOP Section 230 subpoena for Facebook, Twitter, Google MORE (R-Tenn.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean Crapo22 GOP attorneys general urge Congress to confirm Barrett as Supreme Court justice Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting Barrett to sit with McConnell and other GOP senators in back-to-back meetings MORE (R-Idaho) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseMcConnell: Next Trump-Biden debate should be more respectful GOP senators pan debate: ‘S—show,’ ‘awful,’ ’embarrassment’ Schumer rips Trump, GOP over debate: ‘How are you not embarrassed?’ MORE (R-Neb.) — were seated near Tillis and Lee on Saturday. Spokespeople to the four senators did not immediately respond to questions on Friday night about if they had been tested.
But McConnell, speaking in Kentucky earlier Friday, rejected the idea of delaying Barrett’s nomination until senators found out who, if anyone else, would test positive for the coronavirus. Graham disclosed Friday that he had been tested, but was negative.
“I’m planning on moving to the nomination as soon as it comes out of committee,” McConnell said, in one of his clearest indications yet that he will schedule a vote on Barrett’s nomination before the Nov. 3 election.
Democrats, however, are calling on Republicans to put a hold on the schedule for Barrett until senators are able to better understand their potential level of exposure.
Updated: 9:35 p.m.