With the nation still feeling its way forward on the Coronavirus as some states move to re-open businesses shuttered since March, the GOP leader of the U.S. Senate said Monday that Senators will return for work next week in spite of the health worries about the outbreak which has killed over 55,000 Americans in less than two months.
"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," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a written statement issued by his office.
Echoing a point often made by Republicans in the Congress, McConnell said the gravity of the moment demanded that Senators return.
"If it is essential for doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, truck drivers, grocery-store workers, and many other brave Americans to keep carefully manning their own duty stations, then it is essential for Senators to carefully man ours and support them," McConnell added.
In terms of the agenda on the Coronavirus, McConnell in his statement made clear that he wants to explore legislation which could shield business owners from lawsuits over virus exposure, once businesses re-open.
"We cannot let that happen," McConnell said. "Our nation is facing the worst pandemic in over a century and potentially the worst economic shock since the Great Depression. Our response must not be slowed, weakened, or exploited to set up the biggest trial lawyer bonanza in history."
President Trump has indicated his support for the idea, worried that possible lawsuits could endanger an economic rebound.
"We just don't want that because we want the companies to open and to open strong," Mr. Trump said earlier this month.
As for what changes would be made in the Capitol for Senators, staff, police, security, and reporters, McConnell offered no details.
"We will modify routines in ways that are smart and safe," the Kentucky Republican said.
Last week, the House used staggered voting procedures to prevent large gatherings of lawmakers, having members arrive in groups arranged alphabetically on the floor.
In one committee hearing, lawmakers were separated by six feet, many seats were left empty, and staff quickly cleaned tables as lawmakers cycled in and out of the room.
While the House has also set May 4 for a return, that date was clearly up in the air as of last week, when lawmakers were back for one day to vote on a $484 billion Coronavirus aid package.
"Do you still plan on having the House come back on May 4th?" Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by a reporter last Friday.
"Any decision that we have about when we come back rests with the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Physician," Pelosi said. "Hopefully, things will get better."
"We'll see," the Speaker said, without indicating a decision.
But for now, at least the Senate will return to work next Monday.