Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is coming under fire for taking the weekend off from Washington and attending an event with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh while a bipartisan coronavirus stimulus bill awaits his approval.
As Talking Points Memo noted, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shepherded through an economic response package to the coronavirus that won widespread support among Republicans and a stamp of approval from President Donald Trump, but it now must wait until McConnell returns to the Senate after spending the weekend away. The Courier-Journal reported that McConnell left Washington to attend an event in Louisville with Kavanaugh on Friday and would not be coming back until the end of the weekend.
Leaders in both the House and Senate are calling on McConnell to return to Washington and pass the legislation as quickly as possible so it can get to Trump’s desk.
“Senator McConnell and Republicans should pass this legislation as is immediately so it can get to the president’s desk to he can sign it right away,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter.
McConnell released a statement shortly after the House bill passed close to 1 a.m. on Saturday calling on senators to “carefully review” the bill but indicated that he would support it. Reports indicated that Republicans were awaiting an indication from Trump that he would support the bill. Though Trump had criticized Democrats as the bill was being crafted, he tweeted indications on Saturday that he would sign the bill.
The Kentucky Republican’s absence from the Senate has drawn criticism, especially given the pressing nature of the coronavirus outbreak. As CBS News noted, the House legislation contains a number of emergency measures to beef up the federal government’s response to the outbreak, including a requirement that federal health providers and private insurance companies offer free testing for the virus. It also expands food security programs, emergency family and sick leave, and unemployment insurance for workers affected by the virus.
The delay from McConnell prompted criticism, with many taking aim at the Majority Leader for his refusal to come back to Washington.
“Honestly, I do not understand why Mitch McConnell is not passing the House bill today,” tweeted Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. “Call folks into session. It’s critical we get the message out to Americans that they can get paid for sick days as soon as possible.
The bill is expected to pass the Senate once McConnell returns from his time away.