Congressional Democrats on Tuesday postponed the annual House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference, scheduled for Feb. 9-11, due to concerns about the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 omicron variant on Capitol Hill that has infected 30 members on both sides of the aisle.
''While Vice-Chair Pete Aguilar and I are disappointed not to be proceeding with next month's event, the health and safety of the members, their families, and staff, is our top priority,'' conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said in a letter to his Democratic colleagues Tuesday.
''We are thankful for the member input during our recent listening sessions concerning the Issues Conference. From your feedback, it is clear that a productive, in-person gathering is of critical importance as we proceed during this pivotal year for House Democrats,'' he wrote.
Jeffries said the conference, which featured President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as keynote speakers last year, would be rescheduled ''shortly after'' Biden's State of the Union Address in March, if ''the public health landscape permits'' the gathering.
In the meantime, Jeffries said in the letter that the caucus will hold a full-day ''virtual messaging summit'' on Feb. 10 in partnership with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and members of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
''House Democrats must also redouble our efforts to communicate our vision and accomplishments to the American people in a clear, concise and compelling manner,'' Jeffries said.
Democrats are trying to maintain their slim majority in the midterm elections in November, which could prove challenging with 23 party members announcing their retirement at the end of the year, CNN reported in December.
''We have got a problem here," retiring Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., told CNN of the general morale in the House. "There are way too many people serving as members of Congress right now who I not only don't look up to, I have zero respect for. And I'm saddened to have to say that."
According to an NPR report Monday, 26 Democrats are leaving the House, compared with 12 Republicans, which could signal a large gain of seats for the GOP, switching the chamber majority.
A Congressional Research Service profile released Jan. 3 has the House divided with 225 Democrats and 214 Republicans, with 218 votes required to pass a bill or resolution.
The Senate is evenly split, with 48 Democrats, 50 Republicans and two independents that usually caucus and vote with the Democrats, according to the report.
The average ages of members Congress are 58.4 years in the House and 64.3 years in the Senate, the report said.
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