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A year later, lawmakers long for hugs and Chuck E. Cheese

A year later, lawmakers long for hugs and Chuck E. Cheese
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers are eager to return to the joys of everyday life post-pandemic after a year of social distancing and overall uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.

Thursday marks the first anniversary of COVID-19 restrictions, and members of Congress who spoke with The Hill shared what they most look forward to doing when their friends and family are all vaccinated and a sense of normalcy returns to life in America.

For many, it's the little things. 

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“Taking my kids to a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. They miss the ball pits,” Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellThe Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez Lawmakers roll out legislation to defend pipelines against cyber threats McCarthy open to meeting officer injured on Jan. 6 after Swalwell claims he was 'hung up on' MORE (D-Calif.) said.

Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeNow that earmarks are back, it's time to ban 'poison pill' riders Parade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings dies at 84 MORE (R-Okla.) said he’s eager to have a social life again.

“I’d just like to go out to a good dinner with my family and a good cigar bar with my friends,” he said.

For Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellThe 'frills' of Biden's infrastructure plan are real needs Nurses union lobbies Congress on health care bills during National Nurses Week OSHA sends draft emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 to OMB review MORE (D-Mich.), “just being able to sit with my friends safely” will be a welcome change.

“I just miss my contacts and being with friends in person,” she added.

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalBiden spending plans hit speed bumps Overnight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill MORE (D-Wash.) said regaining a sense of community is what she’s looking forward to.

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“Being able to have our kids playing together again without worrying, just being able to be a community. I think that isolation has been so difficult — on families, on communities — and I think just getting some sense of having defeated this virus and getting back to being together is something that everyone is really looking forward to,” she said.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Overnight Defense: Administration approves 5M arms sale to Israel | Biden backs ceasefire in call with Netanyahu | Military sexual assault reform push reaches turning point CDC mask update sparks confusion, opposition MORE has said he expects the coronavirus vaccine will be available for all adults by the end of May. The U.S. is administering 2.1 million shots a day, and more than 18 percent of the population has received a vaccine as of Wednesday.

Members of Congress were eligible to participate in the very first round of vaccinations in mid-December, shortly after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use. About 75 percent of House lawmakers have now been vaccinated, according to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyTrump signals he's ready to get back in the game Manchin, Murkowski call for bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization 8 in 10 Republicans who've heard of Cheney's removal agree with it: poll MORE (R-Calif.).

Now that more Americans are getting vaccinated, lawmakers say they can start looking forward to normal interactions with friends and family. 

Many senators, like Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranBipartisan Senate bill introduced to give gyms B in relief Bottom line Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill MORE (R-Kan.), told The Hill they are eager to hug their grandkids again.

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHelping students make informed decisions on college Lawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats Judge's decision on Barr memo puts spotlight on secretive DOJ office MORE (D-R.I.) said he’s looking forward to having “a big Bristol 4th of July parade,” referring to a town in his home state.

Some senators said they’re excited to see their constituents in person after a year of mostly virtual events. 

“Every year I make a point to visit with local officials from all 95 counties across Tennessee to listen to the challenges they’re dealing with, the opportunities they’re looking at, and how I may be helpful from a federal perspective,” said Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R-Tenn.). “This past year, I’ve had to adapt to social distancing requirements by holding these meetings virtually. I can’t wait for the day when I can see everyone in person again.” 

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators offer bill to allow remote online notarizations Second suspected 'Havana Syndrome' case near White House under investigation: report Warner: Hack-reporting law 'one of the few areas left where there's broad bipartisan support' MORE (D-Va.) is looking forward to doing what politicians are known for — shaking hands.

“I know this is shocking, but I’m in public service because I like people. After a year of Zooms and socially distanced, smaller events, I can’t wait to get back on the road across Virginia, shake some hands, give some hugs, take some selfies, and just generally be out there with my constituents in a way that just isn’t the same during COVID,” he said.

Much of the growing optimism comes from both the increased rate of vaccinations and recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC this week said fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with each other without masks. The agency also said that vaccinated people can visit with someone in a single household who is unvaccinated, without protections.

Washington leaders off Capitol Hill are equally eager to return to pre-pandemic socializing.

“Looking forward to spending time with my grandkids and talking face to face with my friends and colleagues,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said he is “really looking forward to seeing my colleagues in person to thank them for everything over this past year ... and no longer wondering if they’re putting me on mute.”