House leaders reverse course, delay return to legislative work

After concerns were voiced by rank and file Democrats, House leaders announced on Tuesday that a plan to return to normal legislative business next week will be delayed, meaning a split decision in the Congress, as the Senate will resume work on May 4.

"We will not be meeting next week," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters, citing rising Coronavirus case numbers in the Washington, D.C. metro area, and concerns voiced by the House Physician.

"The numbers in the District of Columbia are still going up," Hoyer said. "So, there's not a flattening of the curve."

Hoyer also cited growing cases in two immediate suburban counties in Maryland, and said the next major piece of Coronavirus legislation is not ready for votes on the House floor.

"We made a judgment that we will not come back next week, but that we hope to come back very soon," Hoyer added.

In the meantime, talks will continue between the two parties on possible changes to House rules to make it easier to conduct business during the pandemic.

The decision by House Democrats means there will be a split in the Capitol, as the House will continue to hold off on legislative work, while the Senate is slated to return on Monday.

In announcing plans to return, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not outline any of the plans to safeguard the health of Senators, Senate staff, police, security, and other Capitol Hill personnel.

Among the many questions to be considered - how many staffers would each lawmaker bring back to work on Capitol Hill? What kind of precautions would be needed at entrances to the Capitol and other Congressional buildings? How would social distancing impact the work of reporters - or even the work of police and security personnel?

"The House Physician's view was that there was a risk to members that was one he would not recommend taking," Hoyer said of the House decision to delay a return to the Capitol for regular business.

Washington, D.C. remains under a stay-at-home order until May 15.

Hoyer said another reason lawmakers would not be rushed back to Capitol Hill next week in the House was that work to shape a new Coronavirus relief bill is still ongoing.

While GOP Senators say they want action to limit Coronavirus liability for businesses, Hoyer made clear that would not be part of the immediate agenda for Democrats in the House.

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