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Hoyer releases 2021 House calendar

Hoyer releases 2021 House calendar
© Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE (D-Md.) released the chamber's calendar for 2021 on Wednesday and highlighted the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic for in-person lawmaker gatherings in Washington.

“When the new Congress convenes in January, we will be meeting in the middle of a raging pandemic. To that end, next year’s schedule is designed to ensure that the House will be productive and get its work done while keeping Members, staff, and House employees safe," Hoyer said in a statement.

"This schedule continues the use of Committee work days, which were created and implemented earlier this year to facilitate the House’s work during the pandemic,” he added. “There was significant positive feedback that not only did this promote safe work periods, it also allowed Committee work to occur uninterrupted by House votes. It is important to note that Committee work days may be changed to voting days with sufficient notice.”

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He said members should be prepared for changes in the schedule given the unpredictability of the current circumstances with the pandemic. 

Hoyer on Wednesday also noted that a constitutional requirement will add a wrinkle to when the House convenes in early January.

“The Constitution states that Congress should convene at noon on Jan. 3, unless lawmakers designate a different day by law,” Hoyer said. "Unfortunately, that's a Sunday, it is inconvenient for members. But the Constitution says we can have an alternative date but it needs to be set by law, so that we would have to pass a bill, the Senate would have to pass a bill, the president would have to sign a bill. We're not sure that can be done."

"So we're providing and letting members know that Sunday, the 3rd at 12 noon, is the date that they ought to be expecting to show up and be sworn into the Congress," he added.

Some Republicans argued that the 2021 schedule means lawmakers will spend too much time out of Washington at a time when they should be tackling legislative priorities.

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"Why don’t they want to go to work for the American people? Look at the number of session voting days in the Democrats’ majority vs recent Republican-led Congressional calendars," Mark Bednar, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMcCarthy supports Cheney remaining in leadership amid calls for her to step down The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden hits the ground running on COVID Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear MORE (R-Calif.), said in an email after the calendar was released.

Republicans have criticized Democrats for taking steps to allow for more remote committee work and votes.

But Hoyer's office said Democrats were putting an emphasis on remote work amid the pandemic so they could make the most out of their time in Washington to put legislation on the floor.

"I want to thank Leader Hoyer for setting a schedule that prioritizes moving legislation through committees and to the Floor. This will make it easier for Members to get their bills considered and to deliver on our promises to our constituents. These successful weeks allowed us to safely and efficiently carry out our work for most of this past year, and it’s the right call to continue them in the next Congress," said Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump's lawyers seek clarity about how tax-return case will proceed following Biden inauguration IRS says start of tax filing season delayed until Feb. 12 On The Money: Twenty states raise minimum wage at start of new year | Trade group condemns GOP push to overturn Biden victory | Top Democrat: Georgia runoffs will influence push for ,000 checks MORE (D-Mass.).

Congressional leaders have put measures in place to try and reduce the spread of the coronavirus, including a requirement to wear masks on the House floor. The House launched a testing program last month for lawmakers and staff in an attempt to help with contract tracing and prevent further spread.

Numerous lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent months.