Senate Democrats change caucus lunch to conference call over coronavirus concerns

Senate Democrats change caucus lunch to conference call over coronavirus concerns
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Democrats will change a Tuesday in-person caucus lunch to a conference call, marking the latest change to regular Capitol Hill activity amid growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. 

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers push Trump to restore full funding for National Guards responding to pandemic Bipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline Lawmakers of color urge Democratic leadership to protect underserved communities in coronavirus talks MORE (D-N.Y.) said the change was an attempt to “practice social distancing.”

“Schumer has told his members that tomorrow's Senate Dem caucus lunch will done via a conference call,” the spokesman added.

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The 47-member Senate Democratic caucus normally gathers for a closed-door lunch in a room just off of the Senate floor on Tuesdays. 

But lawmakers are implementing a series of changes as they try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the Capitol, where the advanced age of members of Congress puts the group at a heightened risk.

The Capitol has implemented new restrictions on access to the complex including a temporary suspension of public tours. 

Several lawmakers have also temporarily closed their offices and an army of hand sanitizer dispensers have popped up around the Capitol. 

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November On The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ky.) also canceled the chamber’s planned recess this week keeping lawmakers in town to work on the House-passed coronavirus response bill and surveillance legislation. 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Negotiators signal relief bill stuck, not dead White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate MORE (D-Ill.), Schumer’s No. 2, urged McConnell to clear an extension of the surveillance provisions and the House bill by consent instead of bringing the Senate back. 

“Demanding that those Senators not currently in self quarantine take unnecessary flights exposing themselves and others; requiring our staffs to return to the Capitol and then have all of us return to our families makes no sense in light of the President’s emergency declaration,” Durbin said in a statement.