Senate to resume after 6-week coronavirus hiatus; GOP leader pitches House plan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chambers as the Senate reconvenes following an extended recess due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chambers as the Senate reconvenes following an extended recess due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 4 (UPI) — Half of Congress will resume on Capitol Hill Monday when the Senate returns from a lengthy recess brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate will meet at 3 p.m. EDT, convening for a regular session for the first time since late March.

Lawmakers will return under social distancing guidelines and special rules designed to keep them as safe as possible. Under the rules, only a limited number of senators are allowed on the floor at any one time and face masks are mandatory at committee meetings, which will be held in the Capitol’s largest rooms.

The Senate calendar this week is focused mainly on a fourth relief bill, which is expected to generate a more partisan response than the CARES Act in late March that earmarked billions in stimulus measures and sent aid checks to tens of millions of Americans.

Democrats have said they are pushing for as much as $1 trillion for state and local governments in the “CARES 2” package. The idea has met with resistance among Republicans.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday states could see some funding, but noted the federal government has already “poured hundreds of billions into the states.”

Also on the Senate agenda this week are hearings for two nominations from President Donald Trump — Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas as director of national intelligence Tuesday, and judge Justin Walker for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Ratcliffe was nominated for the post last year but it was withdrawn in the face of bipartisan criticism. Walker, a 37-year-old Kentucky judge, was a controversial pick when he was appointed five months ago because of a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, for his lack of trial experience.

It’s not yet known when the House might resume at the Capitol. House leaders initially said last week they would return Monday, but backed off that plan the following day due to health concerns.

House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy announced a four-point plan Monday to reopen the lower chamber.

“These strategies are based on the advice of public health professionals, as well as guidance from parliamentary experts with decades of combined House experience,” he said in the proposal.

McCarthy’s plan calls for in-person meetings — rather than “remote floor voting” proposed last week by House rules committee Chairman Rep. Jim McGovern — to be phased in by using distancing protocols and protective barriers.

Using technology to replace in-person voting, McCarthy said, “should only be deployed in a ‘crawl, walk, run’ progression.”

“Before we rush to discard over 200 years of precedent, we should require that rigorous testing standards be met, ample feedback be provided, and bipartisan rules of the road be agreed upon and made public to truly safeguard minority rights,” he said.

World moves to reopen after COVID-19 pandemic

Customers have lunch inside El Toro Mexican restaurant in Clute, Texas on May 3. Photo by Trask Smith/UPI | License Photo

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