McConnell in talks with Gardner to allow Senate to take Memorial Day recess

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are in talks over the Colorado senator’s objection to letting the Senate leave for a one-week recess without passing coronavirus relief legislation.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) on Thursday said the GOP leader is trying to reach an accommodation with Gardner, one of the chamber’s most vulnerable Republican senators.

Gardner wants to pass legislation to reform the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and fund infrastructure projects to help the economy get back on track.

“He’s had conversations with the leader and I guess what happens next would be determined by Senate rules and procedures. There are ways, obviously, we can stay in session, we do that all the time. I think those things are being thought through,” Thune told reporters.

If Gardner objects to the recess, it would prevent McConnell from setting up a couple pro-forma sessions during the Memorial Day week that would merely require the Senate to come in session for a few minutes.

But McConnell could still let senators go back to their home states by keeping the Senate in session without scheduling any votes next week.

Thune, however, expressed hope that won’t be necessary.

“I’m hoping that the leader and Sen. Gardner are able to figure something out that would enable [Gardner] to get the things that he wants discussed and considered handled at the right time,” he said.

Gardner has called for reforms to the PPP, something that many GOP senators say is necessary.

Thune noted that Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on that panel, have reached a compromise on a bill to extend the window for the PPP.

McConnell is circulating that bill among senators via the hotline process in hopes that it can be passed by unanimous consent Thursday.

Gardner on Wednesday tweeted that “it’s unfathomable that the Senate is set to go on recess without considering any additional #COVID19 assistance for the American people.”

“Anyone who thinks now is the time to go on recess hasn’t been listening,” he wrote.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday highlighted Gardner’s objection to criticize McConnell’s focus on confirming nominees instead of negotiating a coronavirus relief bill during the three weeks the Senate has been in session in May.

“The inaction by Senate Republicans has gotten so bad that even one of my colleagues on the other side doesn’t want to adjourn today because his party has done nothing on the coronavirus for an entire month,” Schumer said.

Gardner’s objection highlights the lack of consensus within the Senate GOP conference over what steps should be taken next to respond to the pandemic.

Asked Thursday what the Senate could pass next week if it stayed in town, Thune acknowledged, “We can stay in next week and we can continue to do nominations, but I don’t think there is a consensus yet on a path forward” on coronavirus legislation within the GOP conference.

Thune said it’s “highly unlikely” the Senate would pass a coronavirus relief bill before June, even if it canceled the May recess. 

Tags Ben Cardin Chuck Schumer coronavirus relief Cory Gardner John Thune Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell Senate recess

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