Feinstein, 87, delivered her opening statement Monday morning in person — a move that stood in stark contrast to the widespread narrative touted by key members of her party, some of whom have warned that it is simply too dangerous to hold hearings in person in the era of the novel coronavirus, particularly after some members — such as Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) — recently tested positive for the virus:
Feinstein was not the only high-profile Democrat to attend the hearing in person. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the 75-year-old Democratic Whip, also showed up to the hearing in person, as did Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is 32 years younger than Feinstein, has warned that Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senate Republicans are “endangering the lives of not just members and our staff, but the hardworking people who keep the Senate complex running”:
Over the weekend, Harris’s spokesman said that she would be participating in the hearing virtually from her Senate office in the Hart building because of the “Judiciary Committee Republicans’ refusal to take commonsense steps to protect members, aides, Capitol complex workers, and members of the media.”
An interaction between Harris and Feinstein
went viral last month after the vice presidential hopeful refused to hug the 87-year-old senator in the Capitol Rotunda.
“We can’t do that. I want you to live a long life,” Harris reportedly said. Both were wearing a mask at the time:
At the start of the hearing, Graham assured that the room was “CDC compliant.”
“As to the hearing room, I doubt if there’s any room in the country that’s been given more attention and detail to make sure it’s CDC compliant,” he said.
The architect of the Capitol working with the attending physician has set up the room in a fashion that we can safely do our business,” he added:
The mass in-person participation
follows a letter from Judiciary Senate Democrats, including Feinstein, who warned that proceeding with the hearing “threatens the health and safety of all those who are called upon to do the work of this body.”
“Republican members of this Committee have recognized, questioning nominees by video is ineffective and ignores the gravity of our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on lifetime appointments, particularly those to the nation’s highest court,” Democrats stated.
In the October 3 letter, Democrats emphasized that a remote hearing did not serve as an “adequate substitute.” Despite signing the letter, Democrat Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Harris delivered their opening remarks virtually.
Lee, who tested positive for the virus over a week ago, also attended the hearing in person, drawing ire from critics on social media. Lee, however,
said the Office of the Attending Physician cleared him beforehand.