A Month Of Important Senate Accomplishments

Unlike The House, ‘All Month, The Senate Has Been On The Job, Attending To The Needs Of Our Nation. We Have Legislated. We’ve Confirmed Nominees. We’ve Held Major Hearings And Conducted Oversight On The Historic Response To COVID-19.’


SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “All month, the Senate has been on the job, attending to the needs of our nation. We have legislated. We’ve confirmed nominees. We’ve held major hearings and conducted oversight on the historic response to COVID-19. Now, yesterday, we learned that our Senate action will continue to contrast with our absentee neighbors across the rotunda. While essential workers across the country continue to clock in, the Democratic House of Representatives has essentially put itself on paid leave for months. Since the early days of this crisis, the self-described “People’s House” has been suspiciously empty of... people. I understand they’ve convened for legislative session a grand total of two days in the past eight weeks. At this point, I’m wondering if we should send Senators over there to collect their newspaper and water the plants.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/21/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “In just the past three weeks, we have filled crucial posts at the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Homeland Security. [Thursday we] confirm[ed] the next Director of National Intelligence…. The Banking Committee has heard from Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin on the workings of the CARES Act and the state of our economy. The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee has reported the nominee to be Special Inspector General for pandemic recovery programs. The Special Committee on Aging is examining all the ways this crisis hurts America’s seniors. The HELP Committee has discussed with top experts like Dr. Fauci and Admiral Giroir how schools, universities, and businesses will begin to re-open. Senator Cornyn and I are working on legal protections that our healthcare workers deserve and institutions will need if we want to return to anything resembling normal. On the floor, we’ve passed major bills renewing key national-security tools and dialing up the consequences for Communist China’s abuse of human rights. In short, the Senate has just followed the lead of the American people.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/21/2020)

SENATE MAJORITY WHIP JOHN THUNE (R-SD): “So what has the Senate been doing for the past 3 weeks? … [T]aking a look on a committee-by-committee basis at whether some of the things we have already done are being effective. The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee had in the head of the CDC, the head of the NIH--two critical agencies when it comes to fighting the health emergency of this country--to determine and to ask them questions about what is working, what is not working, what have we done, what should we be doing differently, what can we do…. I sit on the Senate Commerce Committee. We have had several hearings. We had a markup [Wednesday]. We marked up 14 bills … but we also have been looking at the impact of coronavirus legislation on those constituencies that are under the jurisdiction of the Senate Commerce Committee, one of which is the airline industry. We had a hearing examining the impact of the coronavirus on aviation, the airline industry in this country, and on things that we have done to help assist and support the airline industry in this country…. This week, the Banking Committee had the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and had the Secretary of the Treasury in front of that committee to ask them questions about what is happening in the financial services industry and what is the effect of all the money that we spent, that we put out the door, how is that working out there, and, again, what can we be doing differently, how can we improve, and how can we do this better as we look to the future. Those are just three committees, off the top of my head, not to mention the fact that the Banking Committee is also reporting out the nominee to be the inspector general for the pandemic--a very important position, I might add. So they have been very active and very busy doing oversight work with respect to this pandemic.” (Sen. Thune, Congressional Record, S.2566, 5/21/2020)

  • SEN. THUNE: “The Senate has also been very involved … in examining and looking at all the coronavirus legislation that we have already passed and the impact it is having and whether it is being effective and where we need to do more and where we need to fix things or refine or tweak things in a way to make those programs that we funded and authorized work better…. And in many of those programs that we authorized and funded, those four pieces of legislation which passed as recently as a couple of months ago, the dollars are still getting out there. They are in the pipeline. They are going out to State and local governments. They are going out to healthcare providers, hospitals, nursing homes. They are going out to small businesses. They are going out to workers, employees, people who have been unemployed through the unemployment insurance program. There are a lot of dollars in the pipeline …” (Sen. Thune, Congressional Record, S.2566, 5/21/2020)


Senate Committees Held Hearings On COVID-19 And Economic Recovery


Tuesday, May 5: Hearing: Nominations of Brian Miller to be Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery at the Treasury Department and Dana Wade to be Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Tuesday, May 12: Hearing: Oversight of Financial Regulators

Tuesday, May 12: Executive Session to consider nominations of Brian Miller to be Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery at the Treasury Department and Dana Wade to be Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Tuesday, May 19: Hearing: The Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress

  • “The Senate Banking Committee took its first look at spending under the massive CARES Act, which Congress approved in March to provide assistance to individuals, businesses and local governments affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were pressed by senators about their stewardship of specific aspects of the approximately $2 trillion relief package at Tuesday's remote hearing.” (NPR, 5/19/2020)


Wednesday, May 6: Hearing: The State of the Aviation Industry: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, May 13: Hearing: The State of Broadband Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, May 20: Executive Session


Thursday, May 7: Hearing: Shark Tank: New Tests for COVID-19

Tuesday, May 12: Hearing: COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School

  • Witnesses included: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Robert Redfield, Director, CDC; Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner, FDA; Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health, HHS Department


Wednesday, May 6: Hearing: Roundtable - COVID-19: How New Information Should Drive Policy

Wednesday, May 20: Business meeting to vote on Brian D. Miler to be Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery


Tuesday, May 12: Hearing: Examining Liability During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Thursday, May 21: Hearing: Caring for Seniors Amid the COVID-19 Crisis


Senate Republicans Began Drafting Liability Protections For Healthcare Providers, Schools, And Businesses So They Don’t Face An Avalanche Of Lawsuits Despite Following Government Health Guidelines

“McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) are crafting legislation to increase liability protections for employers, which the GOP leader has called a ‘red line’ for the next bill.” (“Trump To Attend Senate GOP Lunch On Tuesday,” The Hill, 5/19/2020)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): “I am working with my colleagues on a proposal that would achieve this goal through temporary and targeted protections related to COVID-19 lawsuits. That includes our healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines battling this pandemic, the businesses that are going to great lengths to safely reopen their doors, and the nonprofits helping their communities during a time of unprecedented need. Despite what some of the folks on the left try to claim, this isn't a ban on lawsuits. Nobody is suggesting we have blanket immunity. … We need to put commonsense safeguards in place to ensure that those operating in good faith and following all the relevant guidelines cannot be sued into oblivion because of a particular outcome when people are doing the best they know how to do during a time of crisis--in good faith--and doing exactly what the public health officials and their government officials are telling them to do.” (Sen. Cornyn, Congressional Record, S2498, 5/19/2020)


The Senate Passed A Renewal Of Critical FISA Provisions

“The Senate on Thursday passed legislation reauthorizing three intelligence programs that lapsed earlier this year … Senators voted 80-16 on the bill, which pairs the reauthorization of the USA Freedom Act provisions with some changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court.” (“Senate Votes To Reauthorize Intel Programs With Added Legal Protections,” The Hill, 5/14/2020)

“Senior Justice Department officials have said their ability to pursue some investigations during the two-month lapse of the tools has impeded their work …” (“Senate Approves Measure to Renew Some Lapsed Domestic Spying Powers,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/14/2020)


The Senate Sustained The President’s Veto Of A ‘Deeply Flawed’ War Powers Resolution That Would Have Improperly Hindered Responses To Iranian Aggression

“The Senate on Thursday failed to override a presidential veto of a War Powers resolution intended to rein in presidential authority to use military action against Iran … The vote was 49-44. A two-thirds majority would have been required for a successful override, which was not expected to happen after President Donald Trump vetoed the resolution on Wednesday.” (“Senate Fails To Override Trump Veto Of Iran War Powers Resolution,” CNN, 5/07/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “Today the Senate will consider a War Powers Resolution [that] is deeply flawed on a number of levels…. [I]t is too blunt and too broad. It is also an abuse of the War Powers Act, which was designed to strike a balance between the President’s constitutional war powers and Congress’ own war powers and oversight responsibilities…. There is no ongoing, protracted combat with respect to Iran. Our troops are not mired in unending hostilities…. Clearly this is the wrong tool for this subject…. I believe it is just an effort to broadcast a political message. But even that message can be harmful to our troops and to national security.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 2/12/2020)


The EPW Committee Passed Major Water Infrastructure Legislation

“The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously advanced a pair of water infrastructure measures Wednesday …. The bills, America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, S. 3591, and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, S. 3590, would authorize new Army Corps of Engineers projects, reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Safe Drinking Water Act emergency fund, and make a series of policy changes regarding drinking water, flood control and water supply programs.” (“Senate EPW Advances 2 Water Infrastructure Bills,” Politico Pro, 5/06/2020)


Key Nominations Were Confirmed And Advanced

“The Senate confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) as the next director of national intelligence on Thursday … The Senate voted 49-to-44 to confirm Ratcliffe … Ratcliffe will assume leadership of a sprawling federation of 17 intelligence agencies, with a collective budget of at least $60 billion …” (The Washington Post, 5/21/2020)

“The Senate on Wednesday easily approved President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the country's top counterintelligence official … Lawmakers voted 84-7 to make William Evanina the first Senate-confirmed director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.” (Politico, 5/06/2020)

“The Senate on Thursday confirmed Kenneth Braithwaite, President Donald Trump's nominee to be Navy secretary, filling one of the most pressing vacancies among the senior ranks at the Pentagon…. He won the support of both parties with a pledge to get the Navy back on track …” (“Senate Confirms Trump's Navy Secretary Pick,” Politico, 5/21/2020)

“The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Texas attorney Trey Trainor to serve on the Federal Election Commission (FEC), giving the agency the quorum it needs to conduct business …” (“FEC Regains Authorities After Senate Confirms Trump Nominee As Commissioner,” The Hill, 5/19/2020)

The Senate confirmed Admiral Brett Giroir to be the U.S. representative on the executive board of the World Health Organization. (U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Press Release, 5/07/2020; PN1709, 116th Congress)

The Senate confirmed nominees for Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and CFO for the Department of Homeland Security. (PN1155, 116th Congress; PN514, 116th Congress)

The Senate confirmed two members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (PN1608, 116th Congress; PN1333, 116th Congress)

The Senate confirmed district judges to benches in Arizona, Alabama, and Oklahoma. (PN1174, 116th Congress; PN1438, 116th Congress; PN1346, 116th Congress)

The Judiciary Committee advanced to the floor 6 district judge nominees, 2 nominees to judges on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and on nominees for U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal. (U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Results of Executive Business Meeting – May 14, 2020)


Committees Held Confirmation Hearings For Other Important Positions

The Senate Intelligence Committee held hearings on the nomination of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to be Director of National Intelligence. (U.S. Senate Select Committee On Intelligence Hearing, 5/05/2020)

“President Trump’s latest pick to be secretary of the Navy [Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite] appeared before senators Thursday for a confirmation hearing … Along with Mr. Braithwaite, the committee is considering Gen. Charles Q. Brown to be chief of staff of the Air Force, and James Anderson for the position of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.” (“Senators Examine Trump’s Nominee for Navy Secretary,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/07/2020)

“Judge Justin Walker, as expected, breezed through his confirmation hearing Wednesday for a spot on an influential appeals court in Washington,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (“D.C. Circuit Nominee Sails Through Confirmation Hearing Amid Pandemic Rancor,” Roll Call, 5/06/2020)

“The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced to a floor vote six of President Donald Trump’s U.S. district court nominees on Thursday in its first meeting to consider any selections since mid-March when the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.” (“Senate Panel OKs Judge Picks for First Time in Two Months,” Bloomberg Law, 5/14/2020)


ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE: Wednesday, May 20: Hearing on the nomination of Mark Menezes to be Deputy Secretary of Energy.

JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Wednesday, May 20: Hearing on the nomination of Cory T. Wilson to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Wednesday May 13: Hearing on nominees to be Assistant Administrator of USAID and ambassadors to Estonia, Jordan, Uganda, and Burkina Faso.

ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE: Tuesday, May 19: Hearing on nominees to be members of the board of directors and inspector general of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

COMMERCE, SCIENCE, & TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE: Wednesday, May 20: Executive Session on nominees to be the FCC inspector general, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Assistant Secretary of Transportation, and members of the Amtrak Board of Directors.


And Held Hearings On Oversight And Other Important Functions Of Government


Wednesday, May 13: Hearing: Evolving the U.S. Cybersecurity Strategy and Posture: Reviewing the Cyberspace Solarium Commission Report

Wednesday, May 20: Business meeting to vote on a motion to issue a subpoena to Blue Star Strategies

ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE: Wednesday, May 20: Hearing: Oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency


Tuesday, May 5: Closed Briefing: Intelligence Matters

Wednesday, May 13: Closed Briefing: Intelligence Matters

Tuesday, May 19: Closed Briefing: Intelligence Matters


The Senate Also Passed Bills On Additional Important Subjects

S.2661 – National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020: A bill to designate 9–8–8 as the universal telephone number for the purpose of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system operating through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and through the Veterans Crisis Line

S.3744 – Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020: A bill to condemn gross human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, and calling for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China

S.3782 – Small Business Lending Continuity Act of 2020: A bill to ensure the continuity of the Small Business Administration’s 7(A) loan program giving small business owners more ways to access capital

S.249 – A bill to direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization

S.945 – Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act: A bill to require certain issuers of securities to establish that they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government

S.1130 – Scarlett’s Sunshine on Sudden Unexpected Death Act: A bill authorizing the Health and Human Services Department to develop or maintain activities to address sudden unexpected infant death and sudden unexpected death in childhood

S.2927 – NIMHD Research Endowment Revitalization Act of 2019: A bill to help minority-serving academic institutions, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities, foster research at their academic institutions by clarifying their eligibility for the research endowments program at the NIH

S.Con.Res.38 – A concurrent resolution to establish the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies for the inauguration of the President-elect and Vice President-elect of the United States on January 20, 2021



Related Issues: COVID-19, Back to Work