Wicker: Senate Continues to Work for the American People

Senate Resumes Legislative and Committee Business in Washington

May 11, 2020

After several weeks spent working from home, the Senate has returned to Washington to continue our legislative and committee responsibilities. Managing our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic remains a top priority, but there is other work yet to do. This week we resumed our consideration of the President’s nominees, including several who will play pivotal roles in addressing the COVID-19 crisis, and made progress on other priorities for Mississippi and the nation.

Confirming President Trump’s Nominees

The Senate moved quickly to hold confirmation hearings for Brian Miller, the President’s pick to serve as special inspector general for pandemic recovery, and Congressman John Ratcliffe, who was nominated for director of national intelligence. I also had the opportunity to question Kenneth Braithwaite, the nominee to be the next Secretary of the Navy, at an Armed Services Committee hearing. And we advanced a Republican nominee to serve on the bipartisan board that oversees federal elections.

In addition to filling these posts, we have an opportunity to approve more conservative judges to lifetime positions on the federal bench. The President has already selected two highly qualified Mississippians – Cory Wilson and Kristi Johnson – for openings on the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the U.S. District Court, with another vacancy remaining. I hope we will confirm these judges swiftly as we continue to remake the federal judiciary.

Protecting Privacy During a Pandemic 

Our return to the Capitol signaled a renewal of the legislative process. As co-chair of the Senate Nursing Caucus, I introduced a resolution to recognize National Nurses Week and the invaluable contributions of our frontline health-care workers. I also put forth a bill to address the data privacy concerns of Americans during efforts to fight the current pandemic. Technology can be useful in tracing infected individuals and those with whom they may have had contact. But some efforts to track personal movements through smartphone applications have raised concerns that personal information could be taken and used without permission.

The COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act would require companies to ensure that individuals opt in before having their data used and would allow them to opt out at any time. It would also mandate that companies tell consumers how their data might be used, where it might be sent, and for how long it might be stored. These important guardrails would protect personal privacy while allowing tech companies to make new strides in fighting global outbreaks.

Maintaining Air Services 

Our Senate committees are meeting in person again while observing public health guidelines, though some members choose to join remotely. The Commerce Committee, which I chair, held an important oversight hearing on how the pandemic continues to affect airlines and airports. These services have taken a severe hit from travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders that have kept millions of Americans from traveling.

I led the effort to provide financial support to airlines and airports in the CARES Act. This relief has prevented mass layoffs and a worsening of our economic crisis. At the same time, we required airlines receiving aid to keep workers on their payrolls and continue serving small and medium-sized airports across the country. At the hearing we discussed the state of aviation and ways Congress can continue to support the more than 700,000 workers in that industry, which plays such a vital role in connecting our nation.

Like so many other dedicated Americans whose work requires them to be present, even during a public health emergency, the Senate is carrying out its unique duties. We are taking necessary precautions and will continue making progress for the American people.