McConnell said the Senate will proceed “cautiously” to the next phase of coronavirus relief despite rapidly escalating demands for more aid from members of both parties. And he said that all 100 senators need to be around before Washington spends more money on an unprecedented economic rescue of workers and businesses caught in the virus’ fallout.
“You’ve seen the talk from both sides about acting, but my goal from the beginning of this, given the extraordinary numbers that we’re racking up to the national debt, is that we need to be as cautious as we can be,” McConnell said. “We need to see how things are working, see what needs to be corrected, and I do think that the next time we pass a coronavirus rescue bill we need to have everyone here and everyone engaged.”
After two weeks of bickering over McConnell’s initial proposal to send a quarter-billion dollars to revive the depleted Paycheck Protection Program, the Senate clinched a deal Tuesday providing more aid to small businesses and hospitals, and for disease testing. But it was neither easy nor pretty and the episode exposed the pitfalls of trying to legislate while the Senate is in recess.
McConnell said his goal is still to bring the Senate back on May 4 despite uncertainty nationwide over the spread of a virus that has killed more than 40,000 Americans. But it’s clear that the ongoing recess is becoming untenable: Two Republican senators openly fumed on the Senate floor on Tuesday about passing bills without input from individual lawmakers of Congress. Had either objected, the bipartisan deal would have been derailed and senators would have been hauled back to D.C.
“It’s time to do our job. It’s time to return to Washington and get to work,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “We can’t legislate without our members here.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he would not demand a recorded vote that would have upended McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s plans to quickly pass the aid package. But he warned of the “massive debt Congress is creating,” called for the economy to open up and officially registered his opposition to the bill. He also offered a motion to allow remote voting, but McConnell blocked it.