'We made a judgment:' House extends recess, Senate will reconvene Monday

WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday the House will extend its recess because of the continued spread of coronavirus.

The House had planned to return Monday, May 4, the same day the Senate is rescheduled to reconvene.

"We will not come back next week, but we hope to come back very soon to consider the Cares 2 legislation," Hoyer said, referring to the next stimulus bill Congress plans to negotiate.

In announcing the extension, Hoyer cited increasing coronavirus case numbers in the Washington, D.C. area and the continued work needed to draft the next stimulus package.

As of Tuesday morning, D.C. reported 3,994 cases of the virus, with at least 190 deaths. Additionally, D.C.'s stay-at-home order runs through May 15.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, said there will be some adjustments to how Senators do their work when they return.

“Senators will return to Washington D.C. one week from today. We will modify routines in ways that are smart and safe, but we will honor our constitutional duty to the American people and conduct critical business in person," McConnell said in a statement Monday.

As recently as Monday, Hoyer was on board with the May 4 return date.But the Maryland Democrat said he made the decision to push the return date back after consulting with Congress' attending physician.

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The May 4 date coincides with an earlier decision both the House and Senate made when they extended their recesses due to the pandemic, which lengthened their break by two weeks.

However, worries still remain as to how the House and Senate can reconvene safely in these unprecedented times.

When the House voted Thursday on a nearly half-trillion-dollar emergency bill, the chamber tweaked its procedures for the vote to meet social distancing guidelines.

Members voted in alphabetical order and were allowed on the House floor only in small groups to prevent further spread of the virus. The House chamber was cleaned in between votes, with staff quickly cleaning surfaces before lawmakers entered again.

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It was the first time in a month that many lawmakers have been back to the U.S. Capitol, though not all of the members made it back to Washington for the vote.

Calls from lawmakers to adopt procedures to allow them to vote remotely had been increasing as more lawmakers and family members were testing positive, or going into quarantine.

Many members of Congress have called for leadership to enact some changes that would allow them to work from their homes during the pandemic. Some have suggested phone or video voting and committee meetings or even proxy voting. Congressional leaders thus far have resisted these efforts.

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Hoyer and Pelosi announced on the call that a vote on proxy voting, which is the act of allowing members of Congress to cast votes on behalf of those who are absent, will try to proceed next week.

However, last week, when Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul tried to adopt a resolution to allow senators to vote remotely, McConnell blocked it.

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So far, seven members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19 while dozens of others have self-quarantined since the beginning of the pandemic after potential exposure.

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Both chambers are expected to hold regular weekly legislative sessions through May 22, before taking their Memorial Day recess. But, as of much of the 2020 schedule, there could be changes.

The next round of coronavirus relief is already hitting snags as major disagreements have emerged, like funding for state and local governments.

Contributing: Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu, Maureen Groppe, Ledyard King

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: House extends recess, Senate reconvenes May 4