Pelosi says House may return week of May 11
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the House may return to session as soon as the week of May 11 to consider new coronavirus relief legislation after canceling initial plans for lawmakers to come back next week.
House Democratic leaders are holding off on calling all lawmakers back to Washington until the next relief bill is ready for a vote, citing advice from the Capitol physician that it’s not yet safe to have the chamber back in session amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the nation’s capital.
“We’re not coming back this week. Our plan is to come back the following week,” Pelosi said at a press conference in the Capitol.
While the full House won’t be in session next week, some committees may be convening on their own. The House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services and Labor Department plans to hold an in-person hearing next Wednesday. It’s also possible that the House Small Business Committee could meet.
“The committees are smaller, and so some can come back,” Pelosi said.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the chair of a new select committee overseeing the federal response to the coronavirus crisis, said that it’s possible that his panel could meet in Washington next week as well.
“Next week, hopefully, the full committee will be able to gather here in Washington in some capacity,” Clyburn said.
Pelosi named six other Democrats to the select committee this week. It’s unclear whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will name any GOP members to the panel.
McCarthy, who has called the committee redundant and “impeachment 2.0,” told reporters on Thursday that he will make a decision next week.
While House Democrats are eyeing a return later in May, the GOP-controlled Senate plans to reconvene on Monday. Senate Republicans so far are planning work on confirming President Trump’s executive branch and judicial nominations.
A bipartisan task force is reviewing virtual options for the House to resume its business so that lawmakers and staff can adhere to public health guidelines and avoid gathering in large groups as usual. Republicans remain opposed to allowing remote voting, arguing that the House should instead find ways to continue work in person with additional safety precautions to maintain physical distancing.
Last week’s House votes on interim relief legislation to provide funding for small business loans and hospitals included new safety protocols, including staggering the number of lawmakers in the chamber at any given time and encouraging everyone to wear masks.
The task force this week encouraged committees to hold “remote roundtables” to test the various videoconferencing platforms approved for House use.
But Democratic leaders have signaled that they will enact rule changes to allow remote voting, even if Republicans ultimately don’t get on board.
“We want to do it in a way that if people have to stay home because of this — whether it’s about themselves, a family member or the transportation, which is more difficult now — that remote voting will enable them to do that. But we just have to get enough people here to do the remote voting, and I feel quite confident,” Pelosi said.
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