COVID-19 Infected Senators Willing To Risk Lives To Confirm Barrett. Other People's Lives, That Is.


One big component of civil service is supposed to be a willingness to sacrifice — to put others before oneself. Unless you're a Republican, in which case you have to be willing to sacrifice other people. So, like, the total opposite of that first thing I said. It's less Casablanca, more Wicker Man.

Tom Cotton, in an interview with Fox Business's "Sunday Morning," told Maria Bartiromo that the fact that Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, and Thom Tillis have all tested positive for COVID-19 would not throw a wrench into the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. Because, come hell or high water or superspreader event, those senators will be casting their vote.

Cotton told Bartiromo that he thinks the senators that are infected will be up and ready to vote, no problem, when the time comes. But if it doesn't and they're still sick, he says they can just get wheeled in.

"But if that's not the case, Maria, there is a long and venerable tradition of ill or medically infirm senators being wheeled in to cast critical votes on the Senate floor," he told her.

It's true! It has happened before. In 1964, Democrat Clair Engle — paralyzed and unable to speak — was wheeled on to the Senate floor to cast the deciding vote to end the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act by raising his hand. He died shortly thereafter of a brain tumor. In 1985, Republican California Sen. Pete Wilson was wheeled out onto the floor the day after an emergency appendectomy to cast a vote in favor of the Senate's fiscal 1986 budget resolution, creating a tie that then-Vice President George H. W. Bush broke in favor of the Republicans. And Robert Byrd at 92 was wheeled in to vote for Obamacare when he was sick with being 92.

Notably, no one else in the Senate contracted a brain tumor or appendicitis or extremely advanced age following Engle or Wilson being brought to the floor. That is because those conditions are not communicable diseases, whereas COVID-19? Very communicable, as many attendees of the Rose Garden event to celebrate Barrett's nomination can confirm.

It is unlikely that being wheeled to the floor would be all that inconvenient for the senators, especially if their bout with COVID-19 is not particularly severe. So what Tom Cotton is saying here is that these three senators are willing to graciously risk infecting other people — not just senators, but whomever they get to do that wheeling — in order to cast their votes. How noble! Especially considering how many in the Senate are over the age of 70, making them more likely to die from the virus should they catch it.

This may seem callous to us, but there is something to be said for consistency. Clearly, they don't care any more about their colleagues contracting and possibly dying of coronavirus than they do about American citizens contracting and possibly dying from coronavirus. So at least they're not playing favorites?


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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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