House Democrats say they won’t return to Washington, D.C., the first week of May, even though House leadership has set May 4th as Congress’ official date of reopening, and has declared the work of the federal government “essential” for the purposes of breaking coronavirus-related lockdowns.
Politico reports that key Democrats “railed” against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), when she reminded them that the House was due to gavel back into session May 4th, calling the date “too dangerous,” especially for the many elderly members of the House Democratic caucus.
“Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said returning next week would be ‘dangerous,’ according to multiple Democrats on the call,” Politico said Tuesday. “Other members also spoke up including Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA.), Susan Wild (D-PA) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX), with some asking how they were expected to take care of their families — many without childcare at home — and return to Washington for an extended stay.”
Republicans, on the other hand, have been pushing for the House to come back into session on the timeline set months ago, before coronavirus became a threat, suggesting that Members of Congress are, perhaps, the most “essential workers” in the United States, and stressing that, if many Americans can withstand working through the coronavirus pandemic, federal lawmakers can, too.
Pelosi, House Democratic minority leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) now all seem to agree: Congress will return to session on May 4th, regardless of objection.
Hoyer and McConnell both say that safeguards are in place for Congress’ more vunlerable Members, especially those who are elderly or infirm.
“We’re going to take whatever safeguards the Capitol physician recommends that we engage in and we believe we can do that safely,” McConnell told Politico. “Look, it doesn’t make sense for the Senate to sit on the sidelines while a lot of other people are going to work everyday and trying to get us through this.”
Hoyer says that legislators will vote in shifts so that they can maintain “social distancing,” and Congress will stagger votes so that the chambers aren’t packed with people.
McConnell and several other key Republicans never left Washington, D.C., and have been working out deals with key Democrats to extend coronavirus-related relief programs. Until last week, though, Pelosi and Hoyer seemed uninterested in returning to work as soon as possible.
Now, the House and Senate are likely gearing up to battle over a fourth coronavirus relief package. Pelosi, who is the lead author of the $1 trillion “CARES Act 2,” as she’s called it in interviews, believes the package must be passed within days of Congress returning to work. McConnell, however, says he is “calling time” on expensive bailouts, in case the spending further imperils the already struggling American economy.
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