House Aims to Push Through $2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill as Holdout Insists on Formal Vote

The U.S. House was poised on Friday to pass a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, with Democratic and Republican aides saying enough members had flocked to the Capitol to override a holdout Republican lawmaker who threatened to delay passage.

Leadership of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and top Republicans aimed to pass the largest relief measure that Congress has ever taken up in a voice vote, one of the fastest methods available, and pass it on to the Republican president for his signature.

“Today’s vote is about saving lives and livelihoods,” said Republican Representative Kevin Brady.

But Republican Representative Thomas Massie wrote on Twitter that he did not like that idea and would try to force the chamber to hold a formal, recorded vote. That could potentially delay action.

Lawmakers sat several seats apart from each other, maintaining distance as they waited for a chance to speak. The House scheduled three hours of debate, headed toward a possible vote sometime after noon EDT (1600 GMT).

As the debate unfolded, Massie sat toward the back of the chamber, chatting with other Republicans. It was unclear whether he would speak.

Republican President Donald Trump lashed out at Massie on Twitter, calling him a “third rate Grandstander.”

“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay,” the president wrote in a series of tweets. “…. throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

To minimize the threat of infection due to the coronavirus, the Capitol has laid out special procedures. Members are barred from sitting next to one another and would be called from their offices alphabetically for the vote. They will be required to use hand sanitizer before entering the chamber and encouraged to take the stairs, rather than use elevators, to better maintain social distancing.

Congress members and aides said they expected there would be enough lawmakers on hand to push through a vote if Massie demanded one. Republican Representative Greg Pence – Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother – said he had driven from Indiana in the Midwest for the vote, and others from as far away as California were present for the debate.

LAWMAKERS AT RISK

Most of the House’s 430 current members are in their home districts because of the coronavirus outbreak and would need to go to Washington if Massie forces a recorded vote – which could put them at further risk of contagion. At least three members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than two dozen have self-quarantined to limit its spread.

Older people have proven especially vulnerable to the disease, and the average age of House members was 58 years old at the beginning of 2019, well above the average age of 38 for the U.S. population as whole.

The rescue package – which would be the largest fiscal relief measure ever passed by Congress – will rush direct payments to Americans within three weeks if the House backs it and Trump signs it into law. It passed the Republican-led Senate unanimously on Wednesday night.

The $2.2 trillion measure includes $500 billion to help hard-hit industries and $290 billion for payments of up to $3,000 to millions of families.

It will also provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $100 billion for hospitals and related health systems.

The rare but deep, bipartisan support in Congress underscored how seriously lawmakers are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system threatens to buckle.

The United States surpassed China and Italy on Thursday as the country with the most coronavirus cases. The number of U.S. cases passed 85,000, and the death toll exceeded 1,200.

The Labor Department on Thursday reported the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million, the highest level ever.

(Reporting by David Morgan, Lisa Lambert, Doina Chiacu, Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Andy Sullivan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Jonathan Oatis)

Responses

  1. “The Labor Department on Thursday reported the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million, the highest level ever.” Article

    Don’t be confused.

    That 3+ million only represents the ones who were ABLE to file a claim. The real number is estimated to be closer to 6-7 million.

  2. I am with Massie 100% on his stance in regard to the vote.
    Why are these leeches in congress afraid to stand and be counted? It has little or nothing to do with the possible exposure to CV. Precautions can be taken. They just don’t want to be held accountable to their constituents for their vote. Plus, if I understand correctly a quorum is required by the constitution. I don’t believe a quorum is present unless the members are actually on the floor, not sitting in the gallery.
    All you folks that think, and this INCLUDES Trump, that he is grandstanding, wait until the communists/socialists, aka democrat party, ram something like this, that we as conservatives don’t like, down everyone’s throat. I can just here the howling already. In fact I can still hear the “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it” from the wicked witch of the west pelosi.
    The vast majority of the time I agree with Trump but in this instance I am total in disagreement. IF we are going to play the ” let’s forget the constitution this time because the issue at hand is too important to waste time following it” then we, as a nation, are all but history time. Either we follow the constitution or we don’t.

  3. OK. That’s 3 stories with Pelosi in the photo. Please find someone else to spotlight. If the Kennedy Center at $25M is still included the question would be how many lives are saved by that decision?

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