An updated House legislative calendar for 2020 has only one scheduled voting day in June, 12 in July and none in August.
The calendar House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer released Friday retains the previously scheduled monthlong August recess and the October break for members to campaign ahead of the November general election.
However, in a “Dear Colleague” letter the Maryland Democrat sent about the updated schedule, he left open the possibility of further changes, depending on whether the House is able to complete work on a number of priority bills in late June and July.
“If the House is able to complete its work on these items by the end of July, no changes will be made to the August district work period, barring, of course, any additional measures that need to be taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hoyer wrote. “Information on the fall schedule will be provided at a later date.”
Hoyer specifically mentioned plans for the House to take up the fiscal 2021 appropriations bills, annual defense authorization bill, an infrastructure package, the water resources bill and legislation to strengthen and expand the 2010 health care law, among other unnamed items.
Before the pandemic, the House had been scheduled to be in session all four full weeks of June. The updated schedule now sets aside those weeks for committee work because none of the bills that Hoyer mentioned have been marked up in committee yet and thus there aren’t many bills ready for floor action.
Committees have largely not been able to conduct official business during the pandemic because House rules had not allowed them to meet without a physical presence.
The House recently updated the rules to allow remote hearings and markups, but the rules guidance says the latter can only be done after two virtual hearings and a practice remote markup.
Committees have just started holding remote hearings since the new rules were adopted May 15 and none have yet met the requirements needed to hold remote markups.
“To prepare for the consideration of must-pass legislation this summer, the Appropriations Committee held its first hearing with remote participation this week, and it will continue to hold necessary COVID-19 oversight hearings before beginning subcommittee and full-committee markups at the end of June and beginning of July,” Hoyer said in the letter.
“The Armed Services Committee will hold its first practice hybrid-hearing next week and will continue to meet the additional requirements before starting to hold subcommittee and full-committee markups at the end of June,” he added. “The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is holding its first official virtual subcommittee hearing this week, and it will continue to satisfy the remaining requirements outlined in recently-adopted rules so the Committee is able to hold a full-committee markup in the coming weeks.”
With those committees on track to start reporting out bills in June, Hoyer has scheduled the next voting day for June 30. The House will be in session July 1 and 2 as well before breaking for Independence Day.
The weeks of July 6 and July 13 will again be devoted to committee work and then the House will be in session all five weekdays during the weeks of July 20 and 27.
Hoyer warned members that voting days will likely be longer than usual, with votes starting early as 10:00 a.m. on the first day of the week (first votes of the week are usually at 6:30 p.m.) and potentially running into the evening on the last day of the week (last votes of the week are usually done by 3 p.m.).
The Senate, meanwhile, is scheduled to be in session and voting every week in June. The chamber’s next scheduled district work break starts July 3 and ends July 20. The Senate’s August break is scheduled to start later than the House’s on August 8.
Hoyer did leave open the possibility that the House could come back for votes sooner than June 30 if the Senate acts on additional coronavirus relief legislation.
The House passed a $3 trillion package earlier this month, but bicameral negotiations have yet to start and the Senate has shown little interest in advancing its own relief bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled action on another package is unlikely to occur in June.