COVID-19: House passes $2T bill, rushes it to Trump’s desk

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives Friday at the U.S. Capitol ahead of a vote on the Senate's substantial coronavirus relief package. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/UPI

March 27 (UPI) — The House of Representatives voted Friday to pass a historic $2.3 trillion stimulus package to support the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus epidemic.

The measure passed despite a threat from Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., to hold it up by requesting an in-person vote amid widespread quarantine orders across the country.

The legislation is being rushed to the desk of President Donald Trump, who has said he will sign it. The U.S. Senate passed the bill Wednesday in a unanimous vote.

The legislation — the largest ever passed by the Senate — provides direct payments to Americans who earn up to $99,000. Those with children will receive $500 for each child. It also creates a small business loan program, a fund for industries and a fund for states and localities whose coffers have been depleted.

The measure also expands unemployment insurance to four months and includes money for hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.

The leadership of both parties had been planning to approve the package on a voice vote, since it has broad bipartisan support and passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday. That would mean all voting members don’t need to be physically present to vote at the U.S. Capitol and a quorum need not be in the chamber.

But there had been growing concern that Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who is unhappy with some elements of the bill, might try and force the roll call vote.

“The Senate did some voodoo just like with Obamacare. Took a House bill dealing with taxes, stripped every word, and put their bill in it,” he tweeted Thursday. “It’s the House’s job to reject the process.”

Massie said in another tweet the package and hefty measures from the Treasury and Federal Reserve will result in $68,000 per family of new national debt and dollar devaluation.

“Not a good deal,” he wrote.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office said late Thursday party lawmakers were encouraged to return to Washington for a “possibility that a House Republican may suggest a quorum is not present and attempt to call for a recorded vote on final passage.”

As she entered the Capitol on Friday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed, “We’re going to pass it today.”

Trump criticized Massie for potentially holding up passage of the measure, calling him “a third rate Grandstander.”

“Workers and small businesses need money now in order to survive,” he tweeted. “Throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

The House spent hours Friday debating the bill, during which lawmakers of both parties said it’s important to funnel relief quickly to Americans in crisis.

“America is fighting a war on two fronts — a public health crisis, and an economic crisis,” said Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., “and while far from perfect, the [bill] provides much-needed relief — testing, supplies for hospitals, protections for workers’ paychecks, and assistance for those who lost their jobs.”

“As many have said this bill is far from perfect, but let’s be clear about one thing: the American people need relief now,” added Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado. “Not tomorrow, not next week or next month, but now.”

There were about 50 House members present in the chamber as debate began, far short of a quorum.


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