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House’s expected return delayed to May 4

Timing of next coronavirus aid bill adds uncertainty

A man wearing a bandana as a face mask roller blades past the Capitol on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
A man wearing a bandana as a face mask roller blades past the Capitol on Saturday, April 4, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House has pushed back the estimated resumption of regular business in Washington until May 4, but with another round of coronavirus economic aid legislation in the works, lawmakers could be called back before then.

“If the House is required to take action on critical legislation related to the coronavirus response or other legislative priorities, members will be given sufficient notice to return to Washington, DC,” Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said in a statement Monday.

The House had not set a firm date for returning to Washington, but leaders had said it would not be before April 20. With that date approaching and the coronavirus pandemic still ravaging the country, leaders aim to avoid forcing lawmakers to travel and gather together against public health guidance.

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey said Monday that the April 20 date was not possible in her view.

“I have no interest in going back now. How do you get there? Train? Plane? Last time I got there, I drove for about five hours. People across the country are not going to take a chance. Unless it’s safe, I think we are better off doing our work, as we have been doing, passing bills by unanimous consent,” the New York Democrat said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

Lowey stressed that she and her colleagues are still working and having calls and meetings even though they are not in Washington.

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The House schedule announcement follows days with little movement on a spending package that would reinforce funding for small-business loans that could run dry by the end of the week. Leaders of both parties disagree over how quickly more money is needed for small-business loans and whether the next package would include more funding for hospitals and state and local governments, among other things.

No action on competing proposals for the small-business aid package were considered during Monday’s brief pro forma session in the Senate. That chamber is scheduled to return for regular legislative business on April 20, for a vote on the nomination of Robert J. Feitel to be inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

More than 250 House lawmakers were forced back to Washington on March 27 to override the lone objection of Rep. Thomas Massie to clear a $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

The Kentucky Republican is threatening to reprise his maneuver on the next pandemic aid package that is currently in the works.

“By calling them out on the Constitution and making them come to Washington, D.C. in order to pass a bill, they’re finding it harder to pass this next bill, because they know they’re all going to have to come to work,” Massie told conservative radio host Todd Starnes on Monday. “They know I will get in my car and drive there and make them vote on it. And my colleagues, a lot of them, frankly, are cowards.”

Jennifer Shutt and Jim Saksa contributed to this report.

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