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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy admitted Congress “will look and feel different” but still needs to reopen as he revealed details of a plan to get the House of Representatives back to work.
The California Republican and some of his GOP colleagues released details of the plan even as the Senate returns to work in the Capitol on Monday and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to delay the return of House members.
(Source: Fox News)
“This pandemic has claimed too many lives and livelihoods already. We must not allow the institution we are tasked with safeguarding to be the next,” McCarthy, along with Reps. Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Rodney Davis of Illinois wrote in “A Plan for the People’s House” released Monday.
“In the interim, a bipartisan taskforce has been convened — on which we are all serving — to further explore ways in which Congress can operate during this challenging time. While differences remain, it has become clear through our initial meetings that all members of our taskforce share several fundamental beliefs,” McCarthy wrote.
Despite my call to Speaker Pelosi to establish a clear, safe, and effective plan for reopening the House of Representatives, she hasn’t done so.
Here is my commonsense plan to reopen Congress and restore the voice of the people: https://t.co/hm2OKOLgU5
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) May 4, 2020
Those “beliefs” were listed as a view that “the business of the People’s House is ‘essential work’ that must not be sidelined or ground to a halt,” that the “intrinsic value” of Congress meeting in person “should be dutifully guarded” and that any changes to the institutions “should be done in a deliberate and bipartisan way.”
Pelosi has pushed back to May 11 a return to business for the House as Democrats still fearful of the coronavirus pandemic have resisted efforts to return sooner, earning plenty of backlash and rebukes for considering themselves more valuable than healthcare workers and others who have daily put their lives on the line.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer last week argued that it was not safe yet for members to return to work.
!!! Hoyer says House will NOT come back on Monday, telling reporters he spoke to the House physician: “We made a judgment that we will not come back next week.”
— Emily Cochrane (@ESCochrane) April 28, 2020
“As we enter this indeterminate period between outright mitigation and a return to normalcy, everyone recognizes that our typical ways of doing business will need to adjust. Simply put, Congress will look and feel different,” the Republican lawmakers wrote. “However, we believe there is a pathway forward that enables the House to fully perform its key functions without compromising our shared values or sacrificing bedrock norms,” they added..”
McCarthy’s plan included suggested forms of safety protocols such as plexiglass dividers as well as temperature checks and testing for COVID-19. A phased return with committees, and rotation of hearing rooms as well would help to “reduce density and congestion,” the plan noted.
This is a good plan by my colleagues @GOPLeader, @TomColeOK04, and @RodneyDavis. In a time of crisis it’s essential that Congress is in session working on behalf of the American people. We should implement this immediately and get back to work this week. https://t.co/kea1NiBO1C
— Rep. Mike Gallagher (@RepGallagher) May 4, 2020
“Just as our states are employing a phased reopening approach, Congress should do so as well — beginning with committees and subcommittees as the engines of regular order,” McCarthy wrote. “Each committee should present an outline to the Majority Leader detailing their projected business meetings for the month ahead, along with estimated attendance levels.”
The plan called for a restoration of lawmakers’ ability to give speeches from the House Floor as well as a change in voting schedules.
A “crawl, walk, run” approach was recommended in using technology for committee business, noting that a proposal by Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern allowing remote voting and virtual hearings is “concerning for a variety of reasons.”
“Before we rush to discard over 200 years of precedent, we should require that rigorous testing standards be met, ample feedback be provided, and bipartisan rules of the road be agreed upon and made public to truly safeguard minority rights,” McCarthy and the lawmakers wrote.
The plan also called for risk mitigation practices to be “accelerated.”
“We fully appreciate the extraordinary nature of the challenge before us,” they concluded.
“However, when it comes to fundamentally altering how the House operates — in this case, potentially abandoning the Capitol for the remainder of the 116th Congress under the introduced Democratic proposal — every avenue should first be explored that preserves enduring institutional rules while prioritizing member health,” they wrote. “This pandemic has claimed too many lives and livelihoods already. We must not allow the institution we are tasked with safeguarding to be the next.”
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