House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says it’s time for the House to get back to business.
“This is about restoring the voice of every American who needs their government to be working at this time,” the California Republican said in a Tuesday media conference call.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told Democrats on a Monday call that he did not have a specific return date for the House, Politico reported.
“I understand you can’t bring Congress all back at once. We need to do this in a safe manner,” McCarthy said.
He added that the best option to bring Congress back safely is to use existing options under House rules. Measures to encourage safety could include having longer times for votes, employing social distancing, as well as lawmakers bringing pens to hit the yes or no box when taking a vote. Plexiglass could be used in congested areas, similar to how it is used at grocery store checkout stations.
McCarthy said he thinks the House should phase in returning to work, beginning with committees, such as bringing back appropriations subcommittees so members can work on appropriations bills, and bringing back the Armed Services Committee to work on the National Defense Authorization Act.
The goal, McCarthy said, wouldn’t be playing “political games,” but having “real substantive policy discussions.”
He also added that it wouldn’t be wise to switch to a completely virtual operation since the House is particularly vulnerable to hacking.
“The House gets 1.6 billion cyberattacks per month,” McCarthy said, adding that he doesn’t believe the House should do markups or vote using technology.
He did say, though, that technology could be used for less sensitive operations such as roundtable discussions.
In an op-ed published Monday in Medium, McCarthy wrote that lawmakers have asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “to establish a clear, safe, and effective plan for reopening the House of Representatives.”
McCarthy noted the request to Pelsoi “follows the White House and America’s governors releasing their own detailed plans for a phased reopening of society, and now, both the United States Senate and Democratic Speaker of the California State Assembly calling their members back into session.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., joined McCarthy on the call along with Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
Cole, who is a ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee, said that the House doesn’t have an excuse not to get back to work.
“The Senate is working and the House is showing that it can work,” Cole said. “We can get our work done. No question that it is slower, no question that it is more complex, but it can be done.”
“We are best when we operate within our traditions,” Cole said.
He added that he worries that the longer the House stays out, the more members are unable to fulfil their leadership roles.
Davis, who is ranking member of the Committee on House Administration, says the Capitol is already implementing some practices to bring lawmakers back to work safely.
“When you go into the Capitol, staff aren’t there,” Davis said. “We can follow the social distancing requirements of the experts. If you go to the Capitol, you are going to see hand sanitizing stations. The architect of the Capitol is doing deep cleaning on hard surfaces that could transmit the virus.”