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        Senate returns for first major session since March, under coronavirus cloud

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        The U.S. Senate returns in earnest Monday for the first time since March 25, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling lawmakers back to Washington amid enhanced precautions due to the coronavirus.

        Congress has been largely out due to the pandemic, except for limited sessions with skeleton crews. The House remains out, with leaders having announced they will not be back this week, though they will have a committee hearing on COVID-19 response.


        Senate leaders are expected to deliver remarks on the floor late Monday afternoon, with an evening vote on the confirmation of Robert Feitel to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Senators are expected to pop in, vote and leave to maintain social distancing.

        While senators themselves will be present, much of their staff is expected to continue working remotely.

        The Capitol Attending Physician issued guidance Friday recommending that their offices have as few people as necessary for the time being. Offices are encouraged to modify their layouts as well to provide additional space between workers.

        Both staff and visitors are told to wear face masks unless they stay six feet away from others, and even then masks are still recommended.


        This week’s Senate calendar includes several hearings later in the week, including Tuesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing for Director of National Intelligence nominee John Ratcliffe. Wednesday will see hearings related to COVID-19, including its impact on the aviation industry.

        Still unsettled is the matter of a possible fifth round of legislation to pump even more money into economic relief in response to the pandemic. Both parties are at odds over whether to send billions more to state and local governments, among other proposals, with nearly $3 trillion already appropriated toward a variety of relief programs since the crisis began.

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