“Look, I think the American people need our continued focus on the spread, to prevent the spread,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said. “I think the Senate needs to make sure that we’re all coordinating with our states, our governors, our local health departments — and I think we have to make sure we’re focused on the economy.”
The decision to cancel next week’s recess comes as the stock market continues to take a major hit as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which the World Health Organization officially declared as a pandemic this week.
President Donald Trump has proposed several ideas for an economic stimulus package to help hourly workers and other Americans who could be hit hard financially in the coming weeks and months. While Mnuchin and Pelosi continue to negotiate a bipartisan agreement, GOP leaders decided that they should remain in Washington.
“This is not a systemic economic problem. It’s an economic reaction to another problem. We know what the problem is,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of Senate GOP leadership, said. “So the quicker we solve that problem … the quicker the economy will take care of itself. But I think the Congress is going to have to help financially in various ways.”
“People around the country I think look to the Senate,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), also a member of leadership, added. “We have work to be done, and I want to make sure we accomplish that for the American people.”
Remaining in session also gives senators more time to reach an agreement to renew expiring provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which are set to lapse on Sunday.
While McConnell has pushed for passage of a House bill to reform FISA, he faces objections from Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). Senate leaders asked members Thursday morning if they would support a 45-day extension. Paul told reporters he could support the short-term extension, but only if leaders allowed for an open amendment process.
With the Senate leaving for the weekend on Thursday afternoon, the FISA provisions will likely expire. But a return to Washington next week will give the chamber the ability to reduce the amount of time the provisions will lapse.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed McConnell for sending senators home for the weekend.
“The speaker is still negotiating with Mnuchin. The House hasn’t even sent a bill over and Leader McConnell sends everybody home during a crisis. That is so wrong,” he said.