Some Republican senators to skip national convention due to pandemic

Some Republican senators to skip national convention due to pandemic
A handful of Republican senators have said they are not planning to attend the Republican national convention in Jacksonville, Florida, later this summer.

That group includes the Republican party’s oldest senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Grassley, 86, told the Des Moines Register that he did not plan to attend “because of the virus situation”.

It will be the first time in 40 years that Grassley will not attend the convention, where delegates are due to officially renominate Donald Trump as the Republican party’s candidate for president ahead of the November election.

On Thursday the Kansas senator Pat Roberts, a Republican who is retiring, told reporters he is unlikely to attend as well. Roberts’ office did not respond to a request for comment by the Guardian.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, the highest-ranking Republican in his chamber, was also asked about some of his colleagues not planning to go.

“Well, it’s a challenging situation,” McConnell said. “A number of my colleagues have announced that they’re not going to attend and we’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether or not we can safely convene.”

Trump himself has expressed eagerness to host a convention even amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He wants to replicate the large roaring crowds he’s enjoyed at past rallies, despite warnings from health officials.

Other senators who often clash with the president are not planning to attend. The Utah senator Mitt Romney and the Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, both of whom have split with the president on multiple occasions, are not going either, according to the Washington Post. The Post also reported that the Maine senator Susan Collins was not going to go to the event either. An aide noted to the paper that Collins does not go to conventions in years when she is running for re-election.

The Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander also will not be attending.

“Senator Alexander is an honorary chair of the Tennessee Trump campaign, but he will not be attending the convention because he believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had,” Alexander’s spokesperson Ashton Davies said.

Iowa’s other senator, Joni Ernst, said she was planning to attend but that could change.

It is unclear if more senators will opt to skip the convention. Some of the senators who are passing on the convention have been the source of ire from Trump and worked to maintain a more moderate position within the GOP.

But others who are not going, like Collins, also have to factor in tough re-election fights in states that do not vote reliably Republican. Ernst also is facing a serious re-election fight.

Democrats have taken a more cautious approach in organizing their convention in August, where the former vice-president Joe Biden will be formally nominated as the party’s general election presidential candidate. Some of the convention will be held virtually and some of it will still be in person in Milwaukee. That move is meant to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

On Thursday the Washington Post reported that Republican party officials are considering hosting the convention outdoors. Trump, the Post reported, has been presented with the possibility of hosting the convention outside and will probably make a decision in the coming days.

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