House scheduled to return for votes in late June

House scheduled to return for votes in late June
© Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerAmy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay The Hill's Campaign Report: Primary Day in New Jersey MORE (D-Md.) released an updated floor schedule for the lower chamber on Friday that would have lawmakers staying in their home districts for most of June before returning to Washington, D.C., for votes on June 30.

The updated schedule comes as the District of Columbia enters its first phase of reopening on Friday following the coronavirus outbreak. House leaders have followed city guidelines closely, and officials say that large gatherings are still prohibited despite some businesses being allowed to open with restrictions.

After lawmakers return to D.C., the House is expected to be in session for two weeks at the end of July, out for August and back to tackle a slew of legislative items in September and the first two days of October before breaking ahead of the November elections. Members are then expected to be back in Washington for one week mid-November and the first two weeks of December.

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Hoyer noted that he expects the lower chamber to be “in session at some point in June” if the Senate passes additional coronavirus relief legislation. And he expects members to continue to work on key legislative issues remotely, highlighting the rules changed passed along party lines earlier this month to allow for proxy voting and remote committee work.

“Because of H. Res. 965, the House will be able to consider legislation in committees and on the Floor while protecting the safety of our constituents, staff, employees, and Members. Consistent with that, I write to share with you the updated plan for the summer as the House confronts the COVID-19 crisis and other critical, time-sensitive matters of legislative business,” he wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. 

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“Throughout the month of June, legislative work in House committees will be our focus, with committees meeting to hold hearings and to mark up and report legislation.”

Hoyer said the goal is to have “must-pass legislation” like the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, an infrastructure package that includes language to reauthorize expiring programs, appropriations bills and legislation to expand the Affordable Care Act ready to go for July.

“Committees will be provided time not only to prepare these and other bills for the Floor but also first to adhere to the provisions of H. Res. 965, which require each committee to practice with two hearings making use of remote tools before any remote markup can be held,” he said.

“This will ensure that the process of considering legislation in committee under new procedures can go smoothly and securely. To that end, to prepare for the consideration of must-pass legislation this summer, the Appropriations Committee held its first hearing with remote participation this week, and it will continue to hold necessary COVID-19 oversight hearings before beginning subcommittee and full-committee markups at the end of June and beginning of July.”

The Maryland Democrat noted that the chief administrative officer and his staff are working to strengthen protocols to clean and disinfect committee rooms while members are working from their districts in an effort to “maintain the highest standards of safety while committees perform their work.”

Hoyer said he expects in-session days to be longer than usual in late-June and July as they look to accommodate votes on major legislation, noting the social distancing protocols that have been put in place in an effort to keep members and staff safe during the health crisis.

Hoyer left open the possibility of changes to the calendar in August if the House doesn’t complete its legislative work in July and alerted members that they will be updated on potential changes to the fall schedule.

“If the House is able to complete its work on these items by the end of July, no changes will be made to the August District Work Period, barring, of course, any additional measures that need to be taken to address the COVID19 pandemic,” he wrote.  

“Information on the Fall schedule will be provided at a later date. The Democratic-led House will continue to be focused on doing its job For the People, even while confronting this pandemic. In the coming days, committees will be sharing further information about the timing of hearings and markups, and I will continue to keep members updated on the Floor schedule with sufficient advance notice of any planned votes.”

While Democrats have lauded the decision to implement a proxy voting system as a key step in protecting lawmakers and staff during the pandemic, top Republicans have repeatedly called for members to return to Washington, arguing they should be treated as essential workers. 

Top Republicans in the House have gone as far as filing a lawsuit against Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump's WHO decision raises bipartisan concerns in House Five takeaways from PPP loan data MORE (D-Calif.), the House clerk and the sergeant at arms in an attempt to thwart the use of proxy voting.