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House, Senate to Return from Recess May 4

April 27, 2020 by Dan McCue
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., walks to her office after signing the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, H.R. 266, after it passed the House on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON – The House and Senate will return to work on Capitol Hill on May 4, some 11 days before the stay-at-home order currently in effect in the District of Columbia is set to expire.

“Senators will return to Washington D.C. one week from today. We will modify routines in ways that are smart and safe, but we will honor our constitutional duty to the American people and conduct critical business in person,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Monday afternoon.

Hours later, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced during a conference call with House Democrats that they too will return on May 4.

The Majority Leader said when it returns the Senate “must focus on concrete steps to strengthen our response to this complex crisis.”

“We cannot get distracted by pre-existing partisan wish-lists or calls to paper over decades of reckless decisions that had nothing to do with COVID-19,” McConnell said.

Among the urgent needs he mentioned in his statement is legislation to protect companies and health care workers from lawsuits as the economy reopens.

“While our nation is asking everyone from front-line health care professionals to essential small-business owners to major employers to adapt in new ways and keep serving, a massive tangle of federal and state laws could easily mean their heroic efforts are met with years of endless lawsuits,” he said.

“We cannot let that happen. Our nation is facing the worst pandemic in over a century and potentially the worst economic shock since the Great Depression,” McConnell continued.” Our response must not be slowed, weakened, or exploited to set up the biggest trial lawyer bonanza in history.”

The Senate left Washington in late March, extending its Easter and Passover recess early over concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

McConnell subsequently extended the break for another two weeks, saying earlier this month that the Senate would not return to Washington “sooner than Monday, May 4.”

The House reconvened briefly last week to vote on an interim $484 billion package to renew funding for the popular small business loan program, as well as provide funds for hospitals and testing. 

All but 35 members traveled to the Capitol to cast votes in person.

House officials staggered the floor votes so that members came into the chamber in smaller groups by alphabetical order. 

They also advised everyone to wear masks to help reduce any viral spread. While most lawmakers in both parties wore facial coverings, many removed them to speak during floor debate.

During a news conference last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said any decision about when the House would return to Washington rested with the sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol physician.

“Hopefully things will get better,” Pelosi added.

At least six members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus since the outbreak began in mid-March. Several staffers also tested positive for the virus, as did nearly a dozen construction workers renovating the Cannon House Office Building.

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