Chuck Grassley's COVID infection jeopardizes McConnell's last round of judicial votes: report
United States Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaking at the Night of the Rising Stars in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the COVID diagnosis of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) could complicate efforts by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to force through one last round of right-wing federal judge confirmations.

"At risk are several judicial nominations, threatening to limit McConnell’s transformation of the federal courts under Trump. Grassley’s absence prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to postpone a business meeting Thursday where several nominations might have been advanced," reported Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim and Karoun Demirjian. "Six federal district judge nominees are awaiting floor votes, and the Judiciary Committee has held a hearing on four Trump judicial nominees beyond that."

Already, Grassley's absence sunk the confirmation of Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, a highly controversial nomination due to her support of archaic policies like the gold standard that could constrain monetary policy under the incoming Joe Biden administration. With a handful of Republicans also opposing the nomination, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris provided the deciding vote against Shelton.

"Senate committees can conduct hearings via video conference under the current procedures, but senators still must cast their votes in person on the floor, where mask use is suggested but not required," said the report. "Republicans also continue to hold in-person, if distanced, lunches multiple times a week inside a large Capitol Hill hearing room; Democrats have conducted their regular meetings by conference call since March."

The House, meanwhile, allows members to vote by proxy as a COVID safety precaution, but McConnell has not allowed a similar rule in the Senate.