Capitol Correspondence - 04.28.20

Senate Returns to DC, House Remains in Recess

Share this page

As Congress continues to try to balance its legislative goals with the safety of its members, the House and Senate have taken different approaches. ANCOR will keep members informed on what those mean for policy-making as we learn more about how Congress plans to use the upcoming weeks.

The Senate will resume session on May 4 – as reported by Politico Pro: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Monday that the upper chamber will ‘honor our constitutional duty to the American people and conduct critical business in person.’ The Senate has been out since March 26, part of an extended recess to practice social distancing.

But legislating long-distance has proven difficult. It took two weeks for Congress to pass a fourth round of coronavirus aid, H.R. 266 (116), an effort complicated by the ability of any one lawmaker to derail speedy passage of bills during brief House and Senate pro forma sessions. […]

McConnell said the Senate will ‘modify’ its routines but will get back to work in a week. […] In the Senate, floor time is more of a factor than the House because of the chamber’s confirmation responsibilities. McConnell has also repeatedly vowed that the pandemic will not affect his plans to confirm as many of President Donald Trump’s judges as possible for the rest of the year.”

In contrast, the House will remain in recess. As reported by Axios:

The House will not return from recess on May 4 as previously planned, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The decision, which Hoyer said Democratic leaders made after consulting with the House physician, follows outcry from some members who had safety concerns. The Senate still plans to come back on May 4.

  • The number of coronavirus cases in D.C. are still rising, and two nearby counties are considered hotspots, Hoyer said. The House physician told Hoyer that “there was a risk to members that is one he would not recommend taking.”
  • The majority leader added that the House will return once Congress and the Trump administration come closer to a deal on the next coronavirus relief package.

The other side: House Republicans have been pushing to return to the Hill, arguing that members of Congress are essential workers.

  • Hoyer told reporters that he hopes to come to an agreement with GOP leaders on how to continue committee work virtually, including hearings and markups.
  • Hoyer stressed that all members have been working daily to help their districts.

The big picture: Capitol Hill is a potential petri dish for the virus. Many lawmakers fit high-risk profiles because they’re over 60, have underlying health conditions and are mixing in close quarters with staff and reporters after spending time in various cities across the country.”