Senate will cancel next week's recess as Congress works to pass coronavirus response plan

Key Points
  • The Senate will cancel its planned recess for next week as Congress aims to pass a coronavirus response plan, Mitch McConnell said.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been negotiating proposals with the Trump administration.
  • Republicans opposed a response plan House Democrats planned to vote on Thursday afternoon.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters following the Senate Republican policy luncheon which both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attended on March 10, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Samuel Corum | Getty Images

The Senate will cancel its recess planned for next week as Congress scrambles to respond to the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

"Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week," the Kentucky Republican said in a tweet. "I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong."

Mitch McConnell tweet

As of Thursday afternoon, the House had not announced plans to scrap its recess set for next week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin four times on Thursday as they discussed "language" in the legislation designed to help workers displaced by the global pandemic, according to the California Democrat's spokesman, Drew Hammill. 

House Democrats released a proposal Wednesday night that they initially planned to vote on Thursday afternoon. However, President Donald Trump, McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy all opposed it. 

Earlier Thursday, McCarthy urged Pelosi to push the recess back by 24 to 48 hours to allow more time for negotiations on a revised plan. Pelosi later responded in her weekly news conference. 

"We don't need 48 hours," she said. "We just need to decide to help families right now."

McConnell left Thursday afternoon for the weekend, according to NBC News, meaning any bill would not pass both chambers of Congress until next week. In a statement to NBC, Schumer called it "wrong" to send the chamber home "during a crisis." 

The initial Democratic proposal included 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, along with stronger unemployment assistance for people affected by the coronavirus. It also called for free virus testing. 

It did not include a payroll tax holiday, a Trump administration proposal that investors had cheered. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office initially outlined plans to vote on the Democratic proposal on Thursday afternoon. But it later said the House was in recess, and "members are advised that conversations are ongoing with the Administration regarding" the economic response proposal.

Lawmakers have rushed to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19. There are more than 1,300 cases in the United States, and at least 38 people have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Concerns about the pandemic damaging the economy have walloped major U.S. stock indexes, which dropped more than 6% Thursday even after a Federal Reserve intervention. It has stoked fears about workers getting laid off from struggling businesses or lacking paid leave if they are ill and forced to stay home. 

The outbreak has led to the suspension of sports leagues such as the NBA and NHL, along with temporary closures of institutions such as New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. In Washington, Congress announced it would temporarily close the Capitol and its office buildings to the public, while the White House said it would stop tours until further notice.

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