The Senate will return to business in Washington next week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday, promising modified procedures to keep lawmakers and staff safe while they get back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kentucky Republican said doctors, nurses, truck drivers, grocery store workers and others are still on the job — and so should senators be.
“This crisis has every part of our society in dire need of stability, clarity, and certainty. The Senate has already stepped up, but our work is not over,” he said. “I look forward to seeing all my colleagues next Monday.”
Senators were last in town in full in late March. The chamber has been holding mostly pro forma sessions in the weeks since, though it did pass a major infusion of cash for the stimulus law aimed at blunting the worst of the economic calamity from the virus.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not set a firm date for return of her chamber, though the House is expected to also return on May 4. The speaker is studying how committees can operate and lawmakers might vote remotely.
Senators’ return comes as a number of state governors — mostly Republicans — eye reopening some shuttered businesses in order to get their economies moving again, sparking a debate about whether it’s too soon.
The agenda awaiting lawmakers in Washington is also very much in question.
Mrs. Pelosi wants to see another law passed to send federal taxpayer money to states and localities, helping them plug budget holes that have arisen in dealing with COVID-19.
Mr. McConnell has been cool to the idea, suggesting bankruptcy might be a better way for some states to go.
President Trump and his team have distanced themselves from Mr. McConnell’s remarks. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has his own spending priority, hoping to get Congress to pass a massive infrastructure program he says can play a part in getting folks back to work.
Mr. McConnell, meanwhile, said there’s work to be done on limiting lawsuits to allow health care workers and small businesses continue to operate without fear of being put out of business by lawyers.
“Our nation is facing the worst pandemic in over a century and potentially the worst economic shock since the Great Depression. Our response must not be slowed, weakened, or exploited to set up the biggest trial lawyer bonanza in history,” he said.
Coming back into session is also critical for Mr. McConnell’s goal of approving presidential nominations — particularly judges, who will hold office far after Mr. Trump has relinquished the White House.
With the election looming and the GOP’s grasp on both the White House and the Senate in question, conservatives are looking to fill every possible court vacancy they can.