SALT LAKE CITY — Senators who don’t want to return to Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic should maybe get out of politics, Utah Sen. Mike Lee suggested Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to bring the Senate back next week with no immediate plans to consider additional coronavirus legislation has left some members uneasy about traveling when stay-at-home orders remain intact in most states and the congressional attending physician recommends Congress stay away for now, according to NBC News.
“Legislate, or don’t legislate. But trying to legislate without convening is neither logical nor constitutional,” Lee wrote in a series of tweets.
“If some of my colleagues in the Senate are really concerned that they won’t survive the process of doing what they were hired to do, then perhaps they should consider another line of work.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, plans to return to Washington on Sunday, though not without concerns.
“I think anybody that’s about to reengage after having been, if you will, isolated for five or six weeks now is going to feel a little unusual and a little concerned,” he said.
Romney said he would wear a mask and practice social distancing. His office staff will continue to work from home and meet via videoconference.
“If I go to the Senate floor to vote, l’ll walk in with my mask and walk out. I’m not planning on hanging around to shake hands and otherwise exposing myself and ultimately my wife to a disease which is particularly dangerous for old folks like me,” the 73-year-old senator said.
Lee two weeks ago called on lawmakers to get back to work.
“Unlike millions of our constituents, members of Congress are still receiving paychecks. It’s time for us to earn them. It’s time to do our job,” he said then.
Friday he said senators could stay home for a few weeks and explain to their constituents why they can’t go to work or convince the American people that they don’t need new legislation.
Lee said senators who don’t want to come back also could ask President Donald Trump to invoke a law that reads: “Whenever Congress is about to convene, and from the prevalence of contagious sickness, or the existence of other circumstances, it would, in the opinion of the president, be hazardous to the lives or health of the members to meet at the seat of government, the president is authorized, by proclamation, to convene Congress at such other place as he may judge proper.”
The Republican senator said he doesn’t know if that’s necessary or advisable, but it might make it safer for Congress to convene.
“In any event, there’s no legitimate reason why Congress can’t safely do its work. And if it can’t convene (or won’t), it shouldn’t legislate,” Lee said.
Lee suggested earlier that senators could work and take votes on the floor wearing masks and with social distancing.
Washington, D.C., experienced its deadliest day during the coronavirus pandemic to date on Thursday, with 19 new deaths, bringing its death toll to 224. The district’s stay-at-home order is in effect until at least May 15.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., scrapped plans to bring the House back next week after the Capitol doctor warned it wouldn’t be safe. On Thursday, Pelosi told reporters she wants to return the week after next.
McConnell, R-Ky., intends to focus the Senate session on confirming federal judges nominated by Trump.
One of the nominees, U.S. District Judge Justin Walker, of Kentucky, who is up for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, clerked for then-Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and then-appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He was a vocal defender of Kavanaugh during Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Lee, who said he has known Walker for years, praised Trump’s pick.