McConnell in talks with Gardner to allow Senate to take Memorial Day recess

McConnell in talks with Gardner to allow Senate to take Memorial Day recess
© Aaron Schwartz

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Biden to deliver remarks in Philadelphia Tuesday on nationwide protests Senate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests The Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation McConnell: Next coronavirus bill will be final COVID-19 package MORE (R-Colo.) are in talks over the Colorado senator’s objection to letting the Senate leave for a one-week recess without passing coronavirus relief legislation.

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening MORE (S.D.) on Thursday said the GOP leader is trying to reach an accommodation with Gardner, one of the chamber’s most vulnerable Republican senators.

Gardner wants to pass legislation to reform the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and fund infrastructure projects to help the economy get back on track.

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“He’s had conversations with the leader and I guess what happens next would be determined by Senate rules and procedures. There are ways, obviously, we can stay in session, we do that all the time. I think those things are being thought through,” Thune told reporters.

If Gardner objects to the recess, it would prevent McConnell from setting up a couple pro-forma sessions during the Memorial Day week that would merely require the Senate to come in session for a few minutes.

But McConnell could still let senators go back to their home states by keeping the Senate in session without scheduling any votes next week.

Thune, however, expressed hope that won’t be necessary.

“I’m hoping that the leader and Sen. Gardner are able to figure something out that would enable [Gardner] to get the things that he wants discussed and considered handled at the right time,” he said.

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Gardner has called for reforms to the PPP, something that many GOP senators say is necessary.

Thune noted that Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio: Protesters outside White House 'deliberately stayed to trigger police action' This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThis week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe On The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program MORE (Md.), the ranking Democrat on that panel, have reached a compromise on a bill to extend the window for the PPP.

McConnell is circulating that bill among senators via the hotline process in hopes that it can be passed by unanimous consent Thursday.

Gardner on Wednesday tweeted that “it’s unfathomable that the Senate is set to go on recess without considering any additional #COVID19 assistance for the American people.”

“Anyone who thinks now is the time to go on recess hasn’t been listening,” he wrote.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerPelosi, Schumer say treatment of protesters outside White House 'dishonors every value that faith teaches us' Is the 'endless frontier' at an end? Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday highlighted Gardner’s objection to criticize McConnell’s focus on confirming nominees instead of negotiating a coronavirus relief bill during the three weeks the Senate has been in session in May.

“The inaction by Senate Republicans has gotten so bad that even one of my colleagues on the other side doesn’t want to adjourn today because his party has done nothing on the coronavirus for an entire month,” Schumer said.

Gardner’s objection highlights the lack of consensus within the Senate GOP conference over what steps should be taken next to respond to the pandemic.

Asked Thursday what the Senate could pass next week if it stayed in town, Thune acknowledged, “We can stay in next week and we can continue to do nominations, but I don’t think there is a consensus yet on a path forward” on coronavirus legislation within the GOP conference.

Thune said it’s “highly unlikely” the Senate would pass a coronavirus relief bill before June, even if it canceled the May recess.