WASHINGTON — Senators are planning to leave Washington until April 20 to avoid further spread of the novel coronavirus after they pass a roughly $2 trillion stimulus bill this week, according to four Senate aides.
The chamber could vote as early as Wednesday on legislation to help deal with the economic fallout of the global pandemic, which has rattled US markets. A plan is in the works to then have senators go home for several weeks after spending nine days in close contact with one another in the Capitol, contrary to recommendations from public health officials to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
The Senate had already planned to recess from April 6 to 17 for a district work period, so the new plan would extend senators’ time away from the Capitol.
Already, one senator — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but isn’t showing symptoms. Paul, who had worked alongside senators for several days before receiving his test results, has now quarantined himself, and others who had contact with him have done the same. One of those senators, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, announced Tuesday that he had tested negative for the disease.
Earlier this month, several senators insisted they could keep working as usual, despite the fact that frequent travel and their advanced ages put them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 (the average age for US senators is 62.9 years old). More recently, a pair of senators sought to change the chamber’s rules so that they could vote remotely.
A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not return a request for comment.
It’s unclear if the House will follow suit. A spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not return a request for comment. Two members of the House have tested positive for the disease so far.
Several other countries have suspended their legislative sessions, including Canada, which announced that its parliament would also close until April 20. However, party leaders have recently returned to Ottawa to negotiate a large coronavirus response bill.
The plans to recess in the Senate come after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended gatherings of more than 10 people be canceled and after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the virus.
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