- The Washington Times - Monday, May 4, 2020

The Senate cast its first non-coronavirus related vote Monday, confirming Robert Feitel as the new inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Mr. Feitel’s confirmation today is an example of why the Senate should be getting back to work,” Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana Republican, said on the floor. “Even though America’s nuclear plants are operating at a historically high level so safety and performance we can never be too careful. We cannot let our guard down.

“It is irresponsible to let this agency go so long with out a confirmed independent regulator,” he added.

Mr. Feitel was confirmed on unanimously.

Despite the bipartisan vote, Democrats criticized bringing lawmakers back despite the health concerns about traveling and spreading the virus on Capitol Hill, given that the number of coronavirus cases is climbing in the Washington area.

The vote was stretched out Monday evening, with senators entering the floor in small groups to cast their votes and then immediately leaving to practice social distancing.

Most of lawmakers’ office staff continued to work remotely, while those who were on Capitol Hill encouraged to wear masks and limit close contact in elevators and hallways.

“The Republican leader has scheduled no significant COVID-related business for the floor for the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer 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 Democrat’s 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.

The Senate will focus on confirmation hearings this week, including Judge Justin Walker for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Rep. John Ratcliffe for director of National Intelligence.

But senators also will work on coronavirus-related issues. Later this week, a hearing will be held on 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.

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