House lawmakers indefinitely postpone return to Washington
House Democratic leaders will indefinitely postpone their return to Washington as a precautionary measure amid rising anxieties over the fast-moving coronavirus.
The House was scheduled to return to the Capitol on March 23, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told rank-and-file Democrats on a conference call Monday that they’ll postpone that date, according to several aides familiar with the leadership message.
“Hoyer said for sure not Monday, and he will update them about the rest of the week,” one aide said, noting that potential cancellations of domestic flights may also play a role. “This is all pending domestic travel situation too.”
While discussing the need for more relief packages, leaders also explored the possibility of staggering future votes so all 435 members are not on the House floor at the same time.
The message arrives as Washington policymakers are scrambling for an appropriate response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed thousands of people around the globe — more than 60 in the United States — and hammered global economies.
Earlier this month, Congress passed an $8.3 billion package largely aimed at the immediate health concerns related to the pandemic. House lawmakers on Saturday passed economic stimulus legislation designed to ease the financial stress on those most directly affected.
Pelosi is negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on technical corrections to that economic stimulus, which the Senate is expected to take up.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are already eyeing another emergency coronavirus relief package designed to help industries and businesses that have been hit hard by the deadly outbreak.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday floated a massive $750 billion economic relief package that will include funding to expand hospital capacity, boost Medicaid and expand unemployment insurance for workers who lose their jobs as a result of the crisis.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is sounding alarms related to one industry in particular: the nation’s airlines. He warned on Monday’s conference call that the industry is facing a crisis more severe than the one that followed the 9/11 attacks.
DeFazio “talked about making sure any assistance to airlines puts workers first, and there should be conditions to ensure assistance isn’t used for CEOs or stock buybacks,” said a source on the call.
President Trump, joined by top public health officials, addressed the country Monday afternoon for the second time in four days to roll out several new initiatives designed to shore up the sinking economy.
“Our government is prepared to do whatever it takes,” he said.
Updated at 4:11 p.m.