Congress set to reopen, but new virus aid faces divisions

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FILE - In this April 21, 2020, file photo Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks with reporters after the Senate approved a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid bill on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shelved a proposal for proxy voting this week after Republicans objected. In the Senate, McConnell rejected a GOP remote vote proposal. He expects Congress to return May 4, as planned. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON – Congress is plunging ahead on a new coronavirus relief package, but deepening partisan divide and uncertainty in the schedule could stall the federal response to the health crisis and deteriorating U.S. economy.

Leaders of both parties announced the House and Senate will return May 4, despite objections from their ranks. Senior lawmakers were told in a briefing by the Capitol physician Monday that they may not be able to convene full House sessions, with staffing, for at least a year amid the ongoing crisis. Negotiations are set to resume Tuesday on proxy voting proposals.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday it might be time to consider a “guaranteed income” as 26 million Americans are suddenly jobless. She insists the next bill must provide “heroes” aid to state and local governments to pay police, fire and other front-line workers.

"We may have to think in terms of some different ways to put money in people’s pockets," Pelosi said on MSNBC.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell countered that his priority is to shield health providers and business owners during the pandemic from what could be “the biggest trial lawyer bonanza in history.” He has suggested changing the laws to let states declare bankruptcy.

“The American people do not need tangential left-wing daydreams,” McConnell said.

While the coronavirus pandemic did the unthinkable in Washington, sparking a rare bipartisanship accord between Democrats and Republicans on the biggest rescue package in history — a $2 trillion effort last month, followed by $500 billion last week — it may not extend to the new effort.

In announcing the Senate's return, McConnell said that if it is essential for doctors, nurses and grocery workers "to keep carefully manning their own duty stations, then it is essential for Senators to carefully man ours.”