House staffers confirmed on Monday that Democrat House members will indefinitely delay their scheduled March 23 return to the Capitol, due to coronavirus.
Aides say Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told House Democrats that the scheduled return will be delayed, with a firm return date still to be determined. “Hoyer said for sure not Monday, and he will update them about the rest of the week,” an aide told The Hill on Monday, adding that travel concerns may affect the decision. “This is all pending domestic travel situation too,” he said
The decision arrives at a time when U.S. citizens need action from D.C. leadership more than ever: As the government grapples with appropriate measures to contain the novel coronavirus — and treat its victims — the economy is buckling under the strain. With 40 percent of Americans living just one paycheck away from poverty, taking time off is a life or death decision for people who do not share the luxury of the virtually free health care and paid leave afforded their representatives.
Meanwhile, Congress has already passed an $8.3 billion package aimed at addressing the most immediate healthcare concerns, but that is already proving well short of the resources needed. An economic stimulus was passed on Saturday, which Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are already working to correct.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has also pitched a $750 billion fund for the hospital capacity expansion, bolstering Medicaid coverage, and strengthening unemployment insurance for anyone who loses their job due to the outbreak. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio is focused on keeping the airlines solvent: A source told The Hill that DeFazio “talked about making sure any assistance to airlines puts workers first, and there should be conditions to ensure assistance isn’t used for CEOs or stock buybacks.”
It is unclear what effects this indefinite delay in their return will have on these efforts. All that is left to the American people is to hope their elected representatives are diligent enough to give them the same measure of safety.