4 Republican senators say they plan to skip party convention

Four Republican U.S. senators announced on Tuesday they would not attend the party's national convention in Florida next month, where President Donald Trump will be nominated for a second term in the White House.
Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine will skip the event in Jacksonville, Florida, aides said.
Senator Chuck Grassley, an 86-year-old Republican from Iowa, said on Monday he would sit out because of concerns about the coronavirus, which has spiked in Florida and around the country.
None of the four who made their plans known on Tuesday cited coronavirus as a reason. Two of the senators, Romney and Murkowski, have clashed with Trump and did not attend the 2016 gathering that nominated him for his first White House run.
A spokesman for Romney, the only Republican who voted to convict Trump at his Senate impeachment trial last year, confirmed he would not go but did not respond to questions about the reason.
Murkowski typically reserves August for work in her home state of Alaska, a spokeswoman said. Murkowski said last month she was uncertain if she would support Trump in November.
Collins, who faces a tough re-election fight in Maine that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, never planned to attend because she does not go to national conventions in years she is running for re-election, a spokesman said.
Alexander, 80, will not go because "the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had," a spokesman said in a statement. Alexander will retire next year.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell still plans to attend, a spokesman said.
Most of the convention business was moved to Jacksonville from North Carolina after that state's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, would not commit to allowing a full convention because of pandemic concerns.
But the decision to relocate was made prior to Florida's recent spike in coronavirus cases, which have grown from 667 new cases on June 1 to more than 7,000 new cases on Tuesday.
The Republican Party will provide mandatory coronavirus testing at the convention, according to a memo sent to reporters and attendees. The plan to require testing illustrates the efforts the party is undertaking to ensure Trump speaks to a packed house when he accepts the nomination.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.
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