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Plexiglass barriers, masks and gloves on tap and deserted corridors and subway: Senate returns to business in the coronavirus crisis - with first vote on confirming Donald Trump's nominee to audit nuclear agency

Plexiglass barriers, masks and gloves on tap and deserted corridors and subway: Senate returns to business in the coronavirus crisis - with first vote on confirming Donald Trump's nominee to audit nuclear agency
  • The Senate will vote on a nomination Monday for the first time since passing coronavirus legislation late last month
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi is keeping the House out of session
  • Capitol is adorned with sidewalk signs thanking people for social distancing
  • Some senators are expected to don masks inside the Capitol
  • Capitol police, restaurant staff, and other building employees moved about otherwise empty buildings on Monday afternoon
  • Capitol hearings on nominations resume this week
  • The chamber meets with more than 60,000 Americans dead of the virus and more than 30 million filing for unemployment 
A nearly deserted Capitol complex showcased new precautions to operate amid the coronavirus pandemic Monday, with face masks on offer in the Capitol basement but only a few signs of life in empty corridors  as the Senate prepared to come into session. 
The sprawling Capitol complex remained mostly empty as the Senate was to start taking action on Trump administration nominees, with an area normally teeming with staff and lawmakers now being operated by a small number of building staff.
Public entrances guarded by Capitol Police were virtually unused, with bright yellow signs thanking people for practicing social distancing. Prime parking spots designated for well-connected staffers were vacant. 
The subway that normally ferries senators between their offices and the Capitol ran back and forth as usual on auto control, but was mostly unused even during the heart of the normal workday. 
The Capitol grounds were frequented by joggers Monday, as the chamber prepared to come back in session for the first time since passing coronavirus legislation
The Capitol grounds were frequented by joggers Monday, as the chamber prepared to come back in session for the first time since passing coronavirus legislation
The chamber meets with more than 60,000 Americans dead of the virus and more than 30 million filing for unemployment 
It is set to vote Monday on the nomination of Robert Feitel to be inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – a vote with no clear connection to the coronavirus crisis. 
COVER-UP: A box of masks was placed on a table at the basement entrance to the Capitol
COVER-UP: A box of masks was placed on a table at the basement entrance to the Capitol
Plexiglass has been installed to but a barrier between staff and reporters in the Senate press gallery
Plexiglass has been installed to but a barrier between staff and reporters in the Senate press gallery
A subway connecting two Senate office buildings ran back and forth virtually empty to the Capitol
A subway connecting two Senate office buildings ran back and forth virtually empty to the Capitol
Some Capitol entrances remained closed. All had sidewalk signs about social distancing
Some Capitol entrances remained closed. All had sidewalk signs about social distancing
People feeling ill were urged to stay home
A masked restaurant employee makes a sandwich inside the Senate Dirksen office building
There were plenty of tables available
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Senate back into Session Monday

President Trump fumed days ago that his nominees were stalled, and even threatened to try to force Congress to adjourn in order to make recess appoinments.
 The Senate Intelligence panel holds a hearing late this week on John Ratcliffe, the conservative House Republican whose nomination drew opposition months ago when it was first in the offing. 
Other nominations to see committee action are for secretary of the Navy and Pentagon jobs. McConnell also wants to move forward on Trump's lifetime appointments to fill judicial vacancies. 
When they did arrive, many senators were expected to wear masks, as Vice President Mike Pence did last week on a factory tour – after facing blowback for failing to do so at the Mayo Clinic. The 53-strong Republican conference plans to lunch on Tuesday – although with only three senators to a table. 
In a common area normally filled with staffers before lunch, Senate gift show was gated with a sign that still said 'Happy Easter.'
Outside the building, the Capitol's verdant grounds were being used – by a series of joggers, parents with strollers, and occasional dog walkers. Outside the Senate chamber, the ornate 2nd floor was virtually empty.
Many office doors had tags on their doo knobs stating 'Cleaning Not Required.' 
A group of staff wearing face masks met outside the Senate Rules Committee room in the Dirksen Senate Office building to plan for an upcoming hearing. There are several this week that will advance Trump nominees, some of whom have been held up due to opposition from Republicans as well as Democrats.
One facility that was open Monday was a large cafeteria inside the Dirksen building. A sushi bar remained shuttered, but a grill was operational and a masked food service worker was assembling sandwiches for Senate staffers wearing business clothes. 
An ornate press gallery was nearly empty, with new plexiglass separating the areas where staff sit. 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is keeping the House out of session this week, citing the guidance of the Capitol physician. 
McConnell told Fox News Sunday the Senate “will modify routines in ways that are smart and safe.”
Protective masks, which were difficult to locate at the start of the pandemic, were being offered in a box on top of a wooden table in the basement of the Senate. 
Many Democrats were not enthusiastic about returning to work on Trump's nominees. 'I'm on the road to DC. It's a beautiful day for a drive -- but not for a Senate session that disregards the need for more COVID-19 relief,' tweeted Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

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