Senate 'unlikely' to return on April 20, top GOP senator says

Senate 'unlikely' to return on April 20, top GOP senator says
© Bonnie Cash

A top Republican senator is casting doubt on the Senate returning to Washington on April 20 amid a steady uptick in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said Thursday that the Senate is "unlikely" to stick to its plans for a late-April return.

"There’s all these cities under a closure order till April 30 or so. I think it’s unlikely, but we may have to figure out a way to come back," he told reporters. "My personal view is it’s unlikely."

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Blunt, who was in the Capitol on Thursday for a brief session, is the latest senator to signal that the Senate schedule could slip. The chamber is in the middle of a three-week recess after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeking challenger to McConnell as Senate GOP leader: report Budget chairman: Debt ceiling fight 'a ridiculous position to be in' Buckle up for more Trump, courtesy of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ky.) extended the previously scheduled two-week Easter break.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (R), who has been on his farm in Iowa, previously acknowledged the possibility of a delayed return during a weekly teleconference call.

“Probably stay here for another 10 days and maybe longer if the Senate doesn’t go back into session on April 20," he said.

McConnell has not announced a scheduling update since extending the April recess. The House left town before St. Patrick's Day on March 17.

Aside from passage of the third coronavirus bill, when hundreds of lawmakers scrambled to get back to the Capitol, House leadership has not announced when members should return to Washington.

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"We don't want anybody coming back at any time that might not be healthy for them," House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden pushes back at Democrats on taxes Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Of partisan fights and follies, or why Democrats should follow Manchin, not Sanders MORE (D-Calif.) said during a conference call on Thursday.

But senators have signaled that they view the April 20 return date as flexible depending on the spread and intensity of the virus.

"We're supposed to go back to Washington on April 20, I think that's unrealistic," Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise NY Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 in latest House breakthrough case MORE (I-Maine) said during a recent interview with the Maine Chamber of Commerce.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) was asked on Monday about the April 20 return date. He demurred on commenting on a specific day, but said he expected the Senate would need to return "relatively soon" to work on a fourth coronavirus relief bill.

Sticking to the current schedule would have senators returning at a time when public health officials expect Washington, D.C., could be among the next hot spots that will see a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths.

There were 1,440 confirmed cases in the nation's capital as of noon Thursday, and 27 deaths, according figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema MORE of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said it would be "dangerous and risky effort" to bring lawmakers back on April 20. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the nominee to be inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the 20th.

Durbin and Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE (R-Ohio) have offered a rules change that would allow McConnell and Schumer to temporarily enact remote voting.

But both McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have signaled they are opposed to the idea.

"As long as the Speaker and Majority Leader are both opposed to that, any discussions we would have on that would just be at the most hypothetical level," Blunt said on Thursday.

Blunt is chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and would have oversight of any potential changes to voting procedures in the chamber.

He added that other potential changes, like requiring masks or temperature checks, were also not currently under discussion.

"In this particular moment, even though you want to prepare for contingencies, anticipating what’s going to happen a week-and-a-half or two weeks in advance is really hard to do because the circumstances have changed and will continue to change. Hopefully they’ll continue to change for the better in the near future," Blunt said.