McConnell Cancels Next Week’s Recess to Address Coronavirus Legislation

March 12, 2020 by Dan McCue
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media after attending the Republican weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on May 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said today a two-year spending deal that includes raising the debt ceiling could be made between Republicans and Democrats as soon as the end of the day. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/TNS) **FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY**

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell canceled the Senate’s planned recess next week in order to continue working on legislation to address the economic implications of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week,” McConnell said in a tweet Thursday afternoon.

“I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong,” he said.

Senators had been scheduled to leave town for a week-long recess as soon as Thursday afternoon.

In the meantime, the House is expected to vote on a coronavirus package sometime this afternoon or early evening.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday morning that five House committees were working on the legislation, and that at that moment, even he didn’t know the particulars.

Speaking broadly of the House measure, he said “the first thing we want to do is ensure that there is no cost whatsoever in getting tested for the coronavirus.”

“Beyond that we’re looking to address a range of economic issues that might confront families during this [crisis],” he said.

Measures will include a provision for students with access to school breakfast and lunches even if their schools or closed and expanded family medical leave benefits.

Another is intended to bolster the unemployment system, which Hoyer suggested could “quickly be overwhelmed” by a surge in illness-related new claims.

“We don’t want to panic. but we don’t want to minimize that this is a major health issue,” Hoyer said.

The Majority Leader went on to say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over potential changes to the language and had spoken to him at least twice since Thursday.

A Pelosi spokesman tweeted Thursday afternoon that at least three calls between Pelosi and Mnuchin had occurred today.

“Language discussions are continuing,” the tweet said.

McConnell has largely deferred negotiations on the bill to Mnuchin, but he has suggested the details he’s heard could not pass the Senate in their current form.

There is no word yet whether House will also remain in session for negotiations should a different version of the emergency bill emerge from the Senate.

Hoyer said Wednesday there were two schools of thought on the matter among members. Some feel House should stay in session until the legislation passes and is sent on to the president for his signature. Others feel they can be of more immediate help to their constituents and heath care providers back home by returning to their districts.

“There is no easy answer,” Hoyer said.

In the meantime, the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats is calling for the chamber to remain in sessions as long as it takes to negotiate a response to the crisis.

“Partisan proposals will do nothing to contain the spread of this virus or deliver peace of mind to the American people,” said Rep. Lou Correa, of California, Blue Dog co-chair for communications.

“Now is the time for everyone in Washington to put politics aside and come to a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to ensure we can deliver relief and necessary resources as quickly as possible, and we thank House Democratic Leadership for taking the time to negotiate,” he said. “Neither the House nor the Senate should go into recess until a bipartisan, bicameral agreement is made and a bill is sent to the President’s desk for a signature.”

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