Going to work in the midst of a pandemic is “essential” for doctors, nurses, first responders, and even grocery store workers and delivery people. House Democrats don’t think it’s “essential” for a Congress in the middle of a national emergency and a three trillion dollar spending spree. In a sudden reversal from a commitment last night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced a few minutes ago that the lower chamber will not come back into session next week as scheduled:
JUST IN: House Majority Leader House announces the US House will not be returning on May 4, as initially planned.
After speaking with the House physician on Monday, “we made a judgment that we will not come back next week,” Hoyer says.
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) April 28, 2020
The House will not come back to Washington next week, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday, reversing an announcement he made on a Democratic Caucus conference call the previous day.
The change of course comes as members expressed concern about returning to Washington while some areas in the region are developing into coronavirus hot spots. Hoyer said the decision to delay the return, which had been briefly scheduled for May 4, came after he talked with the Capitol physician, who said he recommended against taking the risk involved in members returning.
“The house doctor, when I talked to him yesterday, was concerned because the numbers in the District of Columbia are going up,” the Maryland Democrat said. “They’re not flat, and they’re not going down.”
Politico had reported earlier that House Democrats had balked at returning to the Capitol. They are also frustrated at being sidelined in the crisis while Nancy Pelosi singlehandedly makes decisions for them, but don’t seem too keen on fixing that problem:
The decision to resume in-person business comes amid growing frustrations from lawmakers in both parties who are worried about being seen as sitting on their hands while the crisis rages. And lawmakers have so far been unable to agree on a remote voting plan that would allow them to work from afar. “Look, it doesn’t make sense for the Senate to sit on the sidelines while a lot of other people are going to work everyday and trying to get us through this,” McConnell told Burgess in an interview.
But, but, but … some lawmakers are upset over returning to Washington next week — nearly two weeks before D.C.’s stay-at-home order ends. Several members raised concerns during a private Democratic caucus call yesterday, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who warned that a premature return could be “dangerous.” Others fretted about the prospect of an extended stay in Washington when they don’t have childcare at home. And on a separate call, the Capitol physician warned a group of lawmakers that they might be “years” away from normalcy.
So … we are years away from having a Congress that stays on the job? Seriously?
Congress could have fixed this problem by temporarily allowing for remote voting and debate. Pelosi refused to consider it in March, and Republicans objected to it last week as they demanded that Congress reconvene in the emergency. McConnell’s call to reconvene the Senate seemed to have belatedly shamed Hoyer and Pelosi into returning to their posts in a national emergency, but apparently there’s no end to shame among House Democrats and the Brave Sir Robin Congress.
There seems to be strategy behind the cravenness, too:
Another reason the House decided to delay its return is because the chamber is not ready to vote on the next coronavirus relief bill, Hoyer said.
“We will not come back next week, but we hope to come back very soon to consider the CARES 2 legislation,” Hoyer said, adding that the House will take “the time to get that in order” before returning.
Ahem. Wouldn’t that require the House to return all the more, especially with all of the failures now becoming apparent in CARES I? This is nothing more than Pelosi trying to preserve her leverage through the use of the “unanimous consent” parliamentary maneuver to keep the House from debating the issues properly. And what about the vigorous congressional oversight Pelosi demanded in CARES I? Pelosi claimed that as her big win for delaying that relief bill by several days, and yet hasn’t bothered to show up to conduct any oversight in almost a month since.
This is nothing less than an abdication of office in the face of a national emergency. If Congress needs to protect itself from the COVID-19 pandemic, they could have appropriated money to rent out a local five-star hotel for weeks on end, disinfected it, and then used it as a dorm for its members, complete with quarantine options if necessary. Meeting rooms could have been used for committee hearings or simple negotiations with all social distancing protocols observed. Capitol Hill has been closed to outsiders, so that isn’t an issue, and Congress could have arranged for reserved buses to transport members back and forth between the hotel and the Capitol.
Instead, we have the Brave Sir Robin Congress, who deserted their posts when their country needs them on the job most. In contrast with all of the other Americans showing up to do their jobs to serve their communities, it’s an utter disgrace, and the stain of their abdication deserves to follow this Congress and its leadership for years to come.
Update: The gauntlet has been thrown, finally:
The Leader's statement from yesterday stands. https://t.co/Vq1NBBzPh1
— David Popp (@davidpopp) April 28, 2020
The lily-livered need not apply for these positions in the first place if they can’t serve their country in an emergency. Those who balk at this should resign and allow governors to appoint replacements. Enough is enough.
Update: Trump took a well-aimed shot at Pelosi for her ice-cream adventure and says House Democrats should get back to work. “They’re enjoying their vacation,” Trump says.