By Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — As Americans confront a crisis unlike any in modern times, the world’s greatest deliberative body is doing almost anything but deliberate the coronavirus.
It’s as though the challenge has split the U.S. Senate into two.
On one side is a Senate clamoring for a quick response to the virus outbreak at its door. On the other is the wait-and-see Senate hitting pause on swift action and carrying on with non-pandemic business.
“Every aspect of American society has been changed by this crisis — except, perhaps, the Republican Senate,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in the chamber Wednesday.
Also see: Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown expresses outrage that Mitch McConnell has held the Senate in session for three weeks as he and his fellow Republicans pursue Trump confirmation votes and not the needs of American families and communities
The split screen at the Capitol provides a study in contrasts and priorities, one that reflects the partisan differences between Republicans and Democrats, and is defining both ahead of the 2020 election.
As the House works remotely, the lights-on Senate has the legislative stage to itself. But despite a virus death toll nearing 100,000 and more than 30 million unemployed, the slow-moving Senate is proving even a pandemic won’t quicken its pace. Senators are prepared to leave town for a weeklong Memorial Day break without having acted on any new relief.
At least one Republican, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, vowed to try to prevent the Senate from recessing Thursday unless it votes on more aid to states and cities facing layoffs.
“Now is not the time for the Senate to go home,” tweeted Gardner, who is among the most politically endangered GOP senators up for re-election in the fall. He told reporters at the Capitol that he had called President Donald Trump at the White House with his concerns.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defends the output, arguing that his side of the Capitol led passage of an earlier major aid package that cost $2 trillion. Better to assess how that money is being spent, he said, before approving more. He rejects the new $3 trillion package approved by the Democratic-led House last week as a “liberal wish list.”
McConnell portrayed the Capitol, where senators in masks are showing up most days while the House works from home, as its own “tale of two chambers.”
“Over here in the United States Senate, the lights are on, the doors are open, and we are working for the American people,” said McConnell, who is from Kentucky and on the ballot in November, with about a dozen challengers pending a June 23 primary. “And across the rotunda, in the House? Crickets.”
Yet it’s the split on display throughout the Senate’s side of the Capitol complex — in the Senate chamber, its committee rooms, even its private caucus meetings.