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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday there is no set date for when the lower body of Congress will come back to Washington, but added that a return will be contingent on when the next coronavirus stimulus bill is ready.
Hoyer, who late last month reversed course and said the House will not return to Washington this week unlike the Senate, said the timing of the House reconvening will depend on the readiness of the fourth coronavirus bill.
“Timing will be dictated by the negotiations and the committee actions in putting together a bill,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to have to determine priorities. We will not be able to do them all.”
Hoyer added that while the House could return to Capitol Hill as early as next week, there are still major concerns about returning.
“We continue to be concerned by the rising numbers of cases in the Washington D.C. area,” Hoyer said before noting that any decision will be made after consulting with the Capitol Attending Physician.
Congress’s doctor cautioned against lawmakers returning to work in Washington this week, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the upper chamber back into session on Monday for a series of hearing and votes. McConnell defended the move, calling his fellow lawmakers "essential workers" and roundly criticizing Democrats for obstructing the confirmation of judges and key government posts for months and forcing the Senate to hold roll calls and floor votes during the public health crisis.
“The deadly coronavirus does not take time off, so neither does the U.S. Senate,” McConnell said on Monday. “Qualified nominees who have been held up for too long are already more essential at this time.”
McConnell’s decisions, however, has been questioned by both Democrats and some Republicans. Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., criticized McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for their decision to turn down a White House offer on testing for the virus - saying it "creates a highly efficient virus-spreading machine” when lawmakers travel to Washington and then back to their home states on the weekends.
“From a public health point of view, this is not mostly about protecting members of Congress. It is about protecting the people members might infect,” Alexander said. “Bringing 100 or 535 members from across the country to Washington, D.C.—a coronavirus hotspot—and then sending them home each weekend creates a highly efficient virus-spreading machine.”
Hoyer said there are discussions for the House to hold virtual sessions, like the Supreme Court has begun to do, but has said that no agreement on the matter has been reached.
“We are not going to allow the Congress to be sidelined,” he said. “I want to have and hope to get and am still working on achieving how to have those hearings, honoring the traditions of the House.”
Fox News' Chad Pegram contributed to this report.