Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that his chamber would return to Washington next week to “conduct critical business in person,” even as the city remains under a stay-at-home order. Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced on a Democratic caucus call that the House will be in session next week, including committee hearings, according to a Democratic lawmaker on the call.
“If it is essential for doctors, nurses, health care workers, truck drivers, grocery-store workers, and other brave Americans to keep carefully manning their duty stations, then it is essential for Senators to carefully man ours and support them,” McConnell said in a statement. “We are reconvening next week.”
His announcement comes as Democrats are pushing to unveil a major new economic rescue bill in coming days that will include aid to states and localities whose budgets have been decimated by the pandemic — a priority that McConnell has not embraced.
In his statement Monday, he echoed previous objections, saying, “We cannot get distracted by … calls to paper over reckless decisions that had nothing to do with covid-19.”
McConnell instead signaled a focus on shielding health-care workers, businesses and others from liability as the nation confronts the crisis and reopens its economy.
“Before we start sending additional money down to states and localities, I want to make sure we protect the people we’ve already sent assistance to who are going to be set up for an avalanche of lawsuits if we don’t act,” McConnell said Monday during a radio interview on the “Guy Benson Show.”
On Monday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged McConnell and Senate Republicans to immediately commence oversight hearings looking at the Trump administration’s response.
“Now that Leader McConnell has decided the Senate will reconvene next week, he should instruct his Committee Chairs to immediately begin vigorous and desperately needed oversight of the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its implementation of the CARES Act,” Schumer said in a statement. “There must be public Senate hearings, at a minimum, to examine why the United States still does not have adequate testing and why some lenders in the [Small Business Administration’s] Paycheck Protection Program have prioritized the applications of their larger and wealthier clients to the detriment of smaller businesses that have oftentimes suffered greater hardship.”
McConnell announced in mid-April that the Senate would seek to come back May 4, a decision he said was made “following the advice of health experts.” His statement Monday made no mention of new input from health experts on the return date but said the chamber would “modify routines in ways that are smart and safe.”