Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on Monday promised not to let the fact that he recently tested positive for COVID-19 stop him from going to Washington to vote in favor of confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, regardless of whether he can still spread the virus.
“If we have to go in and vote, I’ve already told leadership I’ll go in a moon suit,” the seemingly aspiring space cadet said during an interview with radio host Ross Kaminsky on The Ross Kaminsky Show.
Sen. Johnson, one of several Republican senators known to have tested positive for COVID-19, on Saturday confirmed that he was tested for the novel coronavirus just before attending a fundraising dinner for a local chapter of the Republican Party.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, Johnson said he was tested “on the way” to the Ozaukee County Republican Party Oktoberfest Dinner on Friday evening, which was after it was announced that President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, top White House advisor Hope Hicks, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tested positive.
“I would certainly try to find a way of making sure that everybody was safe,” Johnson said when asked if he would vote in-person even if testing positive the day before. “Where there’s a will there’s a way. We can do these things.”
Johnson also criticized U.S. states in their approach to combatting the virus, suggesting the country would have been better off modeling its response to the “Swedish model” instead of using mass shutdowns. Sweden currently ranks fourth in the European Union in total infections per million persons and the Swedish ambassador to the United Kingdom on Sunday conceded that the country should have done more.
The Senator’s approach to the still-surging pandemic led to swift backlash among attorneys.
“Johnson willing to literally risk other people’s lives because McConnell doesn’t think a vote on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court can wait 13 days,” said CNN legal analyst and former Intelligence Community attorney Susan Hennessey. “What the rush exactly? If McConnell thinks he has the votes in the lame duck, then why not wait and do it when it’s safe? And if McConnell doesn’t think he has the votes after Election Day, then how is this a legitimate confirmation in the eyes of public? (Spoiler: It’s not).”
Other attorneys took a more sardonic approach to denouncing Johnson.
Rick Hasen, a law professor at UC Irvine School of Law, said Johnson’s comments were an apt summary of the GOP’s overall approach to Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to SCOTUS.
“And I don’t care who I might infect and potentially kill along the way,” he wrote. “All you need to know in a nutshell about the Barrett nomination process in the Senate.”
Attorney and legal analyst David Lurie had a similarly sarcastic reaction.
“Tightly packing the Court immediately before a huge electoral loss requires sacrifice,” he tweeted.
Brian Klass, an associate professor in global politics at the University College London (UCL), said Johnson’s actions would be against the law in England.
“If Senator Johnson did this in England, it would literally be illegal and he would be fined the equivalent of $13,000,” he wrote. “Which is sensible, because he’s saying that he’s going to knowingly risk infecting other people despite testing positive.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appears to agree with Sen. Johnson’s undeterred approach, setting Barrett’s committee hearing for Oct. 12 at 9 a.m.—despite a COVID-19 outbreak that has affected at least three Republican senators.
“This is absolute madness. Two members of this committee have tested positive for COVID and they can’t do this responsibly,” said Elliot Williams, a CNN legal analyst and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Obama administration. “Senate Republicans are rushing this nomination that the American public overwhelmingly says should wait until after the election.”
[image via Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images]
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