Virus forces Congress to delay legislative work until early May

Virus forces Congress to delay legislative work until early May
Virus forces Congress to delay legislative work until early May

Just as lawmakers stayed away from Capitol Hill during the 1918 flu pandemic, the halls of the House and Senate will mostly be quiet until the first full week of May, as Congressional leaders in both parties try to figure out how their chambers will work going forward with the Coronavirus outbreak.

Originally, lawmakers were scheduled to return to Washington on April 20, but that break will now be extended for another two weeks.

"As the country continues working together to flatten the curve, following the advice of health experts, the full Senate is not expected to travel back to Washington D.C. sooner than Monday, May 4th," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday.

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That announcement came a day after House Democrats had given out similar schedule guidance.

With lawmakers back in their home states, individual members in both parties have had to become creative as they introduce bills, call for action on certain issues, and look for ways to get media attention.

Some are doing live stream broadcasts on the internet, while others are holding telephone town hall meetings with constituents.

"Not to ramble on too long here," Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) said in a joint livestream with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) on Tuesday, as they unveiled the "Emergency Money for the People Act," even while they were hundreds of miles from the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.

One of the few in-person news conferences came in New York City.

Even as House and Senate leaders were saying no votes were expected until at least May, the two parties remained on a collision course over extra Coronavirus assistance.

The White House wants Congress to swiftly approve an extra $250 billion for a new small business assistance program - but Democrats say lawmakers should also add more money for Coronavirus testing, public health needs, and aid to state and local governments.

Republicans continue to make clear they are not willing to add any more money to their $250 billion request.

"The Democrats don’t want to approve more money for our great workers under the incredibly successful “Paycheck” plan," President Trump tweeted on Tuesday, trying to raise public pressure on the matter.

But with split control of the Congress - and the need for any money to be approved by just a handful of lawmakers on the floors of the House and Senate - the lack of agreement has left this extra virus aid in limbo.