By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch , Jonathan Nicholson
Top lawmakers have said Congress won’t come back to Washington until May 4 at the earliest, pushing back the House and Senate’s return by two weeks.
The news isn’t unexpected, given lawmaker concerns about travel during the coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home lockdowns in place in most states. But it has implications for efforts to craft a consensus package of follow-on legislation to the $2 trillion aid package signed into law on March 27.
“Members are advised that absent an emergency, the House is not expected to meet prior to Monday, May 4,” said a Monday update from the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who handles the chamber’s floor schedule.
“Members are further advised that if the House is required to take action on critical legislation related to the coronavirus response or other legislative priorities, Members will be given sufficient notice to return to Washington,” the notice said.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a Tuesday statement that the full Senate is not expected to travel back to Washington any sooner than May 4.
“All members will receive at least 24 hours’ notice if this changes. This bipartisan decision reflects consultation with Leader Schumer and my colleagues in Senate leadership,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Congress previously had been scheduled to get back from its recess on April 20.
Not having all lawmakers around to vote is complicating negotiations on an interim coronavirus response package. Senate Republicans want to authorize another $250 billion for a program to support small businesses during the virus-induced lockdown, while Democrats want to add in aid for hospitals and states as well. With both chambers reduced to passing things through only unanimous consent or voice votes, a single lawmaker on either side can stymie a bill.
Still, Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey of New York said that is the best method of operation lawmakers have right now.
“Unless it’s safe, I think we’re better off doing our work as we’ve been doing, passing bills by unanimous consent and hopefully there is a bipartisan will to rally focus on what we need and leave partisan politics aside,” she said.
U.S. stocks /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.89% /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.77% have been plunging for weeks on coronavirus-related worries but have pared some of their losses thanks in part to hopes surrounding Washington’s aid programs.
Jonathan Nicholson is a Washington-based journalist who has covered economic and fiscal policy for more than 20 years.