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Graham talks with reporters in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) refused to take a COVID-19 test as demanded by his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, forcing organizers of Friday's U.S. Senate debate to change the format at the last minute.

Why it matters: If Graham were to test positive for the virus it could delay confirmation hearings on Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

  • Graham, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has set an Oct. 12 start date for the hearings.
  • Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who also serve on the committee, recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • If Graham tested positive, his ability to campaign in person could also be limited, in a race that has become increasingly heated.
  • The Cook Political Report on Wednesday updated its forecast for South Carolina's Senate race, moving it from "lean Republican" to "toss up."

Background: Graham and Harrison argued on Twitter Thursday night and Friday after the Democrat said he would not participate in the debate unless the senator took a COVID-19 test.

  • Graham accused Harrison of "ducking the debate because the more we know about his radical policies, the less likely he is to win. It's not about medicine, its politics."
  • Graham added that the rules of the debate did not require a COVID-19 test, and he cited a note from his doctor that said he did not meet the criteria for needing a COVID-19 test after possible exposure. Last week, Graham said he had tested negative for the coronavirus.
  • Harrison questioned why Graham would not take a test when he and the debate moderators agreed to do so.
  • Harrison later thanked the event organizers for changing the format.

Of note: The pair faced off behind a plexiglass barrier in their first debate last Saturday.

Go deeper

Updated 17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to coronavirus pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Azar says deadly Capitol siege could "tarnish" Trump administration's legacy — Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Jan 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

Updated Jan 15, 2021 - Health

The coronavirus variants: What you need to know

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New variants of the coronavirus circulating globally appear to increase transmission and are being closely monitored by scientists.

Driving the news: The highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 originally detected in the U.K. could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March if no measures are taken to control the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

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