Mitch McConnell 'Wasted' Time on Coronavirus Bill by Sending Senate Home, Says Ohio Senator: 'We Should Be Working on This'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has faced further criticism that he was responsible for delays to legislation aimed at helping families and businesses weather the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The bipartisan Families First CoronaVirus Response Act will provide a suite of relief measures, including free testing and paid emergency leave for those affected by coronavirus.

But McConnell, who tweeted on Sunday that such a package was "urgent," had been criticized for sending senators home for recess and reportedly returned to Kentucky himself before the House passed the bill.

McConnell has been lambasted by leading Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was "out of touch," and Sen. Elizabeth Warren told MSNBC that the decision was "absolutely irresponsible."

Mitch McConnell has wasted four days in the middle of a pandemic. Now Republican Senators are using procedure to cover for him. @SenatorDurbin is right – enough with the excuses. The Senate should do its job.

Watch this exchange.

— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) March 17, 2020

During a Senate session on Monday, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown added to the chorus of criticism, saying that last Thursday "we were supposed to start working on this."

"I asked Senator McConnell on this floor, I opened this door… I pointed down the hall and I said 'Senator McConnell should come back here and let's work on this bill.' Whether they are actually finished in the house, down the hall, doing it or not, we should be working on this.

"Senator McConnell had to go back to Kentucky. I don't really know what he went back for. We asked him to stay and finish this and negotiate and do it, to take care of stopping this virus, to take care of all the people in my take care of all these people that are losing their jobs and don't know what to do.

"Senator McConnell went back to Kentucky, wasted three days—make that four days. It's three more days of people worrying, it's three more days of people self-quarantining, it's three more days of businesses…shutting down.

"It's the anguish that you feel if you think one of your loved ones is sick, all of that...and we are just wasting another day."

Newsweek has contacted McConnell's office for comment.

When McConnell made the decision to send senators home, the House had not finalized the coronavirus response bill.

In a statement he tweeted on Sunday, McConnell said: "First, we still need to receive the final version of the House's coronavirus relief legislation."

On Monday, a spokesperson for McConnell reiterated that point, telling Newsweek that the Senate had not yet received the House bill.

When asked what the Senate would do when it officially receives the bill, McConnell told CNN: "Pass it."

Some Republicans had expressed concerns at the impact on businesses of the bill's paid leave provisions, however, its prospects of passing were boosted after the House approved a number of changes by unanimous consent, The Hill reported, adding that it could get through the upper chamber as early as Tuesday.

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters on March 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. He has been criticized over delays in passing a bill to help with the economic impacts of coronavirus. Samuel Corum/Getty Images