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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that the House will not return to Capitol Hill next week as originally planned, amid lingering concerns about the number of coronavirus cases in the capital region.
Hoyer, D-Md., had been consulting with the Office of the Capitol Attending Physician, Brian Monahan, and decided to reverse course “after further discussion” and at “the doctor’s recommendation.”
“We’ve made a judgment,” Hoyer said. “We will not come back next week.”
“I’ve been discussing with the Attending Physician ‘How do we do this safely for our members?'” Hoyer said. “The House doctor was concerned because the numbers in the District of Columbia are going up, not down.”
Hoyer went on to say that the House physician’s decision was based on the fact that he felt “there was a risk to members,” and leadership will continue to consult with him on safety measures and planning.
Hoyer said that he felt that “most members are working harder than they would if they were at the Capitol.”
“Any thought that members aren’t working very hard to help with this coronavirus isn’t right,” he said. “I’ve been talking to Dr. Monahan for weeks about just how safe it was for members to come back. The numbers are not in a place where bringing members back was not for his recommendation.”
The House had been scheduled to return to session next Monday, even as the coronavirus stay-at-home orders remain in place for Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Some lawmakers were apprehensive about returning.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday, though, said the Senate will return, as planned, on May 4.
“Senators will return to Washington D.C. one week from today,” McConnell said in a statement. “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.”
He added: “If it is essential for doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, truck drivers, grocery-store workers, and many other brave Americans to keep carefully manning their own duty stations, then it is essential for Senators to carefully man ours and support them.”
But once lawmakers return to Capitol Hill, there is no set plan for what business will be taken up.
The next “Phase 4” coronavirus bill is not ready yet. Many Senate Republicans argue that Congress must return to address coronavirus. But those same members are skittish about passing another bill, costing hundreds of billions of dollars — if not trillions — to combat coronavirus.
“We’re risking ourselves to vote on confirmation? A Commissioner for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)?” asked one senator who asked to not be identified. “There are questions about the validity of this.”
The Senate’s vote on Monday is to confirm Robert Feitel to serve on the NRC.
Fox News is told the House is looking at conducting one “suspension” vote on Monday and then limited floor activity for the balance of next week. A senior source indicated that some House committees will meet.
Besides that, there is not a set schedule.