April 28, 2020

Cardin, Senate Democratic Leaders Urge Senate Republicans to Make Oversight of COVID-19 Relief Efforts a Priority

Senate Democrats to Leader McConnell: Make Senate Focus COVID-19 Related Matters, Including Oversight Of Admin's Response & Recently Passed Legislation

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), today sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), urging Leader McConnell to make COVID-19 related matters and oversight of all COVID-related legislation enacted by Congress the Senate’s focus. 

Despite the severity of the COVID-19 public health and economic emergencies, no legislative or committee business related to the COVID-19 public health and economic emergencies has been scheduled. The Senators request a series of hearings for next week—to be undertaken in the safest possible environment, and subject to uniform standards developed by the Office of Attending Physician—on the nation’s testing capabilities; the implementation of and access to the Paycheck Protection Program;  the implementation of and access to the Treasury and Federal Reserve’s Lending Facilities; the best ways to protect the health and safety of our frontline workers; the implementation of the CARES Act’s Unemployment Insurance provisions; and confirmation of appointees to the bipartisan Congressional Oversight Commission.

Cardin and Ranking Members of the Senate will also request a series of oversight hearings throughout the Senate Committees of jurisdiction as follow-up to the Senators’ letter.

In addition to Cardin, Schumer, Durbin, Murray and Stabenow, the letter is signed by Senate Committee on Appropriations Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Senate Committee on Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senate Committee on Armed Services Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Committee on Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Senate Committee on Budget Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Senate Committee on Aging Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Senate Rules Committee Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Vice Chairman Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

Senate Democrats’ letter to Leader McConnell can be found below:

April 28th, 2020

Dear Leader McConnell:

The Senate is currently scheduled to return to session on May 4th, 2020 to debate non-COVID related nominations.  There is currently no scheduled legislative or committee business related to the COVID-19 public health and economic emergencies.

Pursuant to your decision to convene the Senate during the week of May 4th, despite the public health emergency in Washington, D.C., we respectfully urge you to have the Senate focus on COVID-19 related matters and oversight of all COVID-related legislation enacted by Congress.  With respect to any Committee hearing, we also urge the Senate Leader to take strong actions to ensure the hearings are conducted in the safest environment possible, by requiring the Office of the Attending Physician to develop uniform standards on protecting the public health of Senators, employees, and witnesses for each Committee to follow, and charging the appropriate Senate support agency with assisting committees in implementing the guidance when necessary.  

We believe the Senate should immediately consider next week:

  • A public hearing with Administration officials and industry leaders and experts regarding our testing capabilities and capacity, and implementation of the requirement of zero out of pocket cost testing for all populations.
  • A public hearing regarding the implementation of and access to the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program with the Small Business Administration Administrator Carranza.
  • A public hearing regarding the implementation of and access to the Treasury and Federal Reserve’s Lending Facilities with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Powell.
  • A public hearing regarding the best ways to protect the health and safety of our frontline workers with Administration officials and health and safety advocates.
  • A public hearing regarding the implementation of the CARES Act’s Unemployment Insurance provisions with Labor Secretary Scalia.
  • Confirmation of appointees to the bipartisan Congressional Oversight Commission, including the chairperson.

In addition, there are scores of other issues that require oversight and public hearings in the coming days and weeks ahead. We believe each Committee in the Senate has an important oversight role to play in responding to the COVID-19 emergency. The Ranking Members of the Senate, in consultation with their committee members, will be requesting a series of oversight hearings as a follow-up to this letter.

Sincerely,

CC:

Chairman Pat Roberts, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

Chairman Richard Shelby, Senate Committee on Appropriations

Chairman James Inhofe, Senate Committee on Armed Services

Chairman Mike Crapo, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Chairman Michael Enzi, Senate Committee on Budget

Chairman Roger Wicker, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Chairman John Barrasso, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Chairman Chuck Grassley, Senate Committee on Finance

Chairman James Risch, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Chairman Lamar Alexander, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Chairman Ron Johnson, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Chairman John Hoeven, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Chairman Lindsey Graham, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Chairman Roy Blunt, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration

Chairman James Lankford, Senate Select Committee on Ethics

Chairman Richard Burr, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Chairman Marco Rubio, Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Chairwoman Susan Collins, Senate Special Committee on Aging

Chairman Jerry Moran, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

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