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Five aides to Vice President Mike Pence, including chief of staff Marc Short, have tested positive for COVID-19. Pence and Short reportedly were in close contact as recently as Friday, but Pence has decided to continue campaigning across the country — and preside over the Supreme Court confirmation vote of Amy Coney Barrett in the U.S. Senate on Monday night — rather than self-quarantine as the CDC recommends.
“As vice president, I’m president of the Senate,” Pence said at a rally in Florida on Saturday. “And I’m going to be in the chair because I wouldn’t miss that vote for the world.”
Presiding over the vote obviously would make the vice president feel good, and the photo of the moment could come in handy in 2024, but Pence’s presence is not necessary. There are 52 senators who intend to vote for Barrett and 48 senators who intend to vote against Barrett. It would take the absences of four Republican senators who support Barrett to make a tie-breaking vote by Pence necessary.
So why would the vice president be in the Senate on Monday night, three days after he was in close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus?
Pence has been testing negative on a daily basis over the weekend, but it’s not clear how effective tests are at detecting infections before the onset of symptoms. Why take the risk sitting in a windowless room with a bunch of senators who are in their 70s and 80s? As the presiding officer of the Senate, Pence would be sitting fairly far away from senators, but floor staff would be in closer proximity.
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