Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended reconvening the Senate on Monday, arguing the confirmation work is essential to keeping the country running.
Thanking the Capitol Physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, and the essential staff securing the Capitol, Mr. McConnell said that Senators are “changing shifts” and joining those frontline workers that are keeping the country functioning during the lockdown.
“The deadly coronavirus does not take days off, and so the U.S. Senate has not either,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said. “Those around the world who wish harm on Americans are not going to give us a free pass until the pandemic is over. So the Senate needs to overcome obstruction and continue to act.”
“I don’t think anybody could seriously argue that filling critical national security posts is not essential Senate business,” he added.
The Senate is set to vote Monday night on Robert Feitel nomination to be the next inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There will also be hearings for key nominations this week — Justin Walker for the D.C. Court of Appeals and Rep. John Ratcliffe for the Director of National Intelligence position.
Senate Democrats slammed Mr. McConnell for bringing members back despite the health concerns about traveling and spreading the virus on Capitol Hill, given that the cases of coronavirus continue to climb in D.C. and the surrounding neighborhoods.
The House reversed its plan last week to return, citing advice from the Capitol physician that members were at risk.
Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said if lawmakers were going to be back they should be “focused like a laser” on the next coronavirus package — something Republicans have yet to officially agree to.
“The Republican leader has scheduled no significant covid-related business for the floor for the Senate,” he said. “There are much more pressing issues that deserve not only the Senate’s attention but should be the subject of bipartisan negotiations before the next emergency relief package.”
The New York Democrats’ top concerns were getting more funding to state and local governments, ramping up resources for the overly stressed healthcare system and putting together a national testing plan.
Later this week, there will be a hearing on Dr. Brian Miller’s nomination to be the inspector general for the pandemic recovery as well as a hearing on how to develop new COVID-19 tests.