McConnell cancels recess to tackle coronavirus

Source: By George Cahlink, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is scrapping next week’s recess to work on an economic aid package as the nation reels from the fast-moving coronavirus.

“I am glad talks are ongoing between the administration and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong,” McConnell said earlier this afternoon in announcing the change in Senate schedule.

McConnell, who did not specify what he was looking for in legislation, said he wanted to work “within existing law and within existing systems to deliver targeted relief as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

McConnell and other Republicans have balked at a plan unveiled last night by House Democrats that would provide aid to workers affected by the virus and speed up tests. Critics say the package would force unfunded mandates on already hard-hit businesses.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) is trying to negotiate a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that could win bipartisan support. House leaders are hoping to pass it today before leaving for their scheduled recess.

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who is in a tough reelection fight, tweeted at McConnell, “Thanks for hearing out my call to cancel recess, @senatemajldr. The American people need a Congress that works. Speaker Pelosi should immediately do the same.”

McConnell’s announcement comes as the Capitol is preparing to close for most visitors and as more lawmakers shut down their offices or self-quarantine.

“This is challenging to our nation in ways that feel unfamiliar to us, but our great country is strong, we are equipped and we have overcome far greater challenges before,” said McConnell on the floor this morning.

“I know the entire Congress will look forward to welcoming all Americans back to visit their beautiful Capitol as soon as possible.”