WASHINGTON (CN) — Despite pushing back the House’s return to Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats will be back on the job on Capitol Hill.
“Small groups can come back — and maybe they have a full committee meeting or maybe they have a virtual meeting or maybe they have a hybrid — but work will be done,” Pelosi said.
The House is now set to reconvene the week of May 11, but the speaker explained that, being “at the mercy of the virus,” the plan could again change.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had announced the delay Tuesday, just 24 hours after announcing the House would reconvene May 4, on the advice of health professionals.
On Thursday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told reporters that his plan as the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis chairman is for Democrat-led committees to still pick back up next week.
“We can effectively do a lot of committee work here and do that in preparation of coming back at some point in the not too distant future,” the South Carolina Democrat said.
Pelosi firmly stressed that the House will reassemble once a second Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security package, or CARES II, is ready for a vote. Democrats, like Republicans, the speaker said, want Congress to reopen but safely and effectively.
In no uncertain terms, Pelosi made clear Thursday that House Democrats will not pass a second interim bill with additional funding if the Paycheck Protection Program again runs out of money.
President Donald Trump signed the first interim funding bill last week, replenishing the PPP with $310 billion after it burned through the initial $350 billion set aside for small businesses in just two weeks. The loans do not have to be paid back if the businesses use them to maintain payroll and cover certain expenses like rent and utilities.
“We just did do an intervention,” Pelosi said. “But we must do a CARES bill now. We cannot put that off.”
After months of questions surrounding remote voting by proxy, Pelosi also told reporters Thursday that the House will vote to establish the new practice when it returns in anticipation of some members having to continue working from their districts.
“We just have to get enough people here,” the speaker said.
Calling on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to send $8 billion from the CARES Act to Native American tribal governments, Pelosi also weighed in on a court battle raging in Washington over the emergency-relief funding.
The speaker said aid from the first coronavirus response bill was “not anywhere nearly enough” for the tribes. “I wanted more and I want more in the next bill,” she said.
The dispute centers on whether Alaskan Native corporations are entitled to funds passed by Congress to support Indian tribes. Though not necessarily tribe owned — these entities include military contractors and for-profit entities — the Alaskan Native corporations say should be included as CARES Act recipients as they provide essential support to more than 230 villages of Alaska Natives.
“I mean it’s just ridiculous that they would be getting in line to get funds from this,” Pelosi said, referring to the corporations. A federal judge this week temporarily blocked the Treasury Department from disbursing funds to the private organizations.