McConnell cancels Senate break over coronavirus

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill McCarthy slams Democrats on funding for mail-in balloting Harris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.) announced Thursday that the Senate will cancel next week's recess to stay in town to craft coronavirus legislation.

The decision comes after growing calls from within the GOP caucus to cancel the upcoming break. Senators had been scheduled to leave town for a weeklong recess as soon as Thursday afternoon.

"Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week. I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi," McConnell tweeted.

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The Senate is still leaving on Thursday for their normal three-day break. But instead of taking off until March 23, senators will now return on Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHarris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill House Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans Rep. Massie threatens to block next relief bill, calls for remote voting MORE (D-N.Y.) knocked McConnell for letting senators go home at all.

“The Speaker is still negotiating with [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin. The House hasn’t even sent a bill over and Leader McConnell sends everybody home during a crisis. That is so wrong," he told reporters.

By returning next week, GOP senators are hoping they will be able to quickly pass the House bill — if Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi calls for investigation into reports of mistreatment of pregnant women in DHS custody Wisconsin highlights why states need a bipartisan plan that doesn't include Democrats federalizing elections Pelosi defends push for mail-in voting: GOP 'afraid' to let people vote MORE (D-Calif.) gets an eleventh hour deal with the White House — or propose potential changes to what Democrats send over.

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"Hopefully if the White House and the House are largely in agreement we can either work out the differences or not. And if they're completely in agreement, my guess is we'll deal with that bill pretty early next week," Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenators, bipartisan state officials press Congress for more election funds Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next COVID-19 relief deal Voting rights group pushes steps to protect voters during coronavirus pandemic MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, told reporters.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDurbin: Bringing senators back in two weeks would be 'dangerous and risky' Trump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, added that he thought the Senate returning to work next week could help calm a jittery stock market.

"I think that there will be ... some things that the administration will do on their own. But the fact that the Senate is going to be became next week and not go into recess I think, I would suspect some calm and reassurance," Thune said as he left the Capitol for the weekend.

The Senate's departure, and decision to return, comes as Pelosi has been negotiating language in the House coronavirus package with Mnuchin. Their fourth call of the day happened around 2:30 p.m., according to a spokesman.

"Third call of the day with the Secretary started at 11:26 a.m. Language discussions are continuing," a spokesman for Pelosi tweeted earlier Thursday.

Senate Republicans have largely sidelined themselves in the current negotiations, deferring to Mnuchin. If the White House signs off on a deal, it's expected that McConnell and most Senate Republicans would quickly pass it.

Even as Republicans are largely in a wait-and-see mode they were under pressure to stay in Washington, despite growing anxiety about preventing the spread of the coronavirus in the Capitol

Several members of GOP leadership had emerged from McConnell's office earlier in the afternoon and said they were considering nixing the break.

“I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Lobbying world MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 Senate Republican.

McConnell has faced mounting calls from within his conference to work out a deal amid widespread concerns over the virus and the markets tumbling.

"Due to the need to work on additional efforts to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate should cancel its recess and remain in session next week,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo Democrats roll out bill to protect inspectors general from politically motivated firing Senators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Senators push for changes to small business aid MORE (R-Maine) tweeted.

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisHouse Dems introduce anti-price gouging legislation North Carolina Senate race emerges as 2020 bellwether The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control MORE (R-N.C.) added that “Congress needs to cancel its recess and stay in session so we can work together in a bipartisan fashion to address the coronavirus pandemic.”

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GOP Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstAs we have united when tested in the past, Americans are working together to fight coronavirus The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders exits, clearing Biden's path to nomination Democrats target Ernst in bid to expand Senate map MORE (Iowa) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseAmerica's governors should fix unemployment insurance Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus House Republican urges Pompeo to take steps to limit misinformation from China on coronavirus MORE (Neb.) had also called for the Senate to stay in town.

“The Senate ought to keep working on the people’s business — both addressing the obvious deficiencies in our diagnostic testing pipeline, and debating the President’s call last night for economic legislation. The Senate has work to do, let’s get to it,” Sasse said in a statement.

Updated at 3:47 p.m.