The House approved a $ 484 billion economic measure Thursday evening to provide additional relief to small businesses feeling the pressure of the coronavirus and, while the law was secure, the vote contained drama.
The problem was the face masks, who wore them and who weren’t, with some lawmakers calling members of the opposing party for their lack of safety protocol.
Lawmakers returned to Washington, DC this week to vote on the fourth coronavirus rescue bill after it was passed by the Senate on Tuesday – after at least two weeks of delay as Democrats blocked the first draft of the legislation in order to push for additional funding for state and local governments.
The measure fell from 388 to 5 in the House – only 35 legislators were absent on Thursday, a remarkably low number given the restrictions in place to fight the coronavirus.
The five legislators voted against this mixture of representatives of the two parties: the democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the republican representatives Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, Jody Hice and Tom Massie. Independent representative Justin Amash voted present.
In brief remarks on the floor before the vote, Ocasio-Cortez – who said she was the “most affected district in America” - criticized the Republicans for not including more funding.
“It’s a joke when the Republicans say they have urgency about this bill,” she said, complaining that the opposition was trying to help big business, not small business. . “You are not trying to fix this bill for mom and dad. “
She did not say that she was voting against the bill, but complained that there was not enough “rent and mortgage relief for our constituents”.
Thursday’s passage sends the legislation to President Donald Trump’s office, which is expected to sign it.
“I will sign it, maybe later tonight,” he said in his daily press briefing at the White House.
The Democrats’ additional funding was not in the final bill, but the president has said he is ready to have it in a fifth coronavirus rescue measure, a bill already hotly debated. .
While lawmakers headed upstairs to talk about Thursday’s vote, some ignored directives from the Capitol sergeant-at-arms and attending physician who urged members to wear face masks in the room . Masks have even been made available to legislators outside the main entrance to the house’s floor.
Economic relief package increased from 388 to 5
President Nancy Pelosi puts on a scarf and blue plastic gloves as she crosses the United States Capitol to the Chamber
Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in a speech to the House, complained that the bill did not have sufficient relief funds
The $ 484 billion coronavirus rescue package was passed in the House Thursday evening and will soon be sent to Donald Trump’s office for signature
Lawmakers also clashed on the home floor as some wore masks and others weren’t against new directives. Democrat Representative Jim McGovern (right) called Republican Jim Jordan (right), who was not wearing a mask
As Pelosi wore her scarf like a bandana around her nose and mouth while walking down the halls of the Capitol building, she removed the covering by speaking on the floor of the house on Thursday.
Representative Jim Jordan – in the upper right corner of the screen – was seen coughing in his hand while sitting on the floor of the house
Jim Jordan, one of Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress, was one of the lawmakers who refused to wear a face covering. He was also seen coughing in his wrist while sitting on the floor of the house without protective gear.
After Jordan made his remarks when he was not masked, Democratic representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who managed the Democrats’ debate, berated his colleague.
McGovern, dressed in a New England Patriots mask, reminded lawmakers of the new recommendations.
“Although face covers are not mandatory, they are certainly recommended,” he said in remarks pointing to Jordan. “And the GP’s office also said that a face covering would produce minimal sound reduction when using a microphone. The face covering will probably be the most useful for preventing viral spread when a person is speaking. So people can do whatever they want. “
“I would say if we are all trying to show how brave we are, we have to pay attention to the people around us,” added McGovern.
Some lawmakers wore masks, others did not.
Democrat representative Kathy Castor of Florida opened the legislative session for the day and Father Patrick Conroy wore a yellow mask when he offered the prayer of the day.
“Give us all patience, especially with each other,” he prayed during this difficult time. “These are days of great economic, social and political pressure in our nation. “
Republican Louie Gohmert, another Trump ally, was not wearing a face cover, and even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi removed her headscarf while speaking on the microphone on Thursday.
The Republicans cast a shadow over the speaker. Oklahoma representative Tom Cole said he would follow Pelosi’s example and would not wear a mask while leading the ground debate for the GOP.
“I will follow his example. I think we should keep our mask on when we do our normal business, but take it off when we speak and thank you for setting the example, Madam President, “he said.
Resp. Democrat Kathy Castor wore a mask when she opened the house and Father Patrick Conroy, in the yellow mask, wore one during his opening prayer
Lawmakers practiced social distance safely on the floor of the house, the seats were marked with signs where they should not sit in order
Signs have been posted in the Capitol to help legislators meet social distancing guidelines
New Era: Nancy Pelosi, Her Helpers and Safety Details All Covered Their Faces To Make Their Way Through The Capitol
Majority House Leader Steny Hoyer wears face mask as he travels to the House before vote on further economic stimulus package
Before the House adopted the economic rescue plan, lawmakers approved the creation of a bipartisan committee to monitor the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to combat the economic fallout from the pandemic.
The approval came largely on a party vote. The Democrats pushed for the special committee, but the Republicans called it an opposition political ploy to target President Trump.
Pelosi has already announced that Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina will chair the committee.
Between this vote and the vote on the economic assistance package, the House closed for about 10 minutes while a group of guards entered to clean the room, wiping the seats and desks.
Lawmakers also followed a new voting procedure aimed at reducing the number of people upstairs. With 435 members, the floor, during normal votes, is quite crowded, which makes social distancing impossible.
For Thursday’s votes, the chamber was set up so that a member of the Chamber entered the side, one by one. They voted by an electronic card reader just inside the entrance, then went down the floor of the House to exit through the President’s Hall.
The new procedure means that the vote took 1 hour and 22 minutes. Most votes in the House last 15 minutes.
In addition, lawmakers were encouraged to take the stairs instead of the elevator and were asked to use hand sanitizer before entering and leaving the room.
The economic package proposed by the GOP was adopted without democratic opposition in the House on Thursday afternoon, but the parties are already in the process of thinking about the next stimulus package.
Interim relief has been criticized by Democrats for not doing enough, even after being able to add money to hospitals and increased testing capacity and supplies.
The Democrats could not, during the negotiations, get the Republicans to concede the flow of money to state and local governments, but they said it would be a key step in the upcoming fifth bill.
The bill was pushed back to the Senate by at least 12 days when the Democrats blocked the first version of the law, which included only $ 321 billion for the payment protection program (PPP) to provide loans to small enterprises.
The Senate adopted the measure by voice vote, which means that most legislators did not have to return to Washington D.C. to be in the Senate chamber.
In addition to the relief for small businesses, the legislation also provides $ 75 billion for hospitals and health care providers and $ 25 billion to expand testing for coronavirus.
Keeping distance: President Nancy Pelosi seemed to observe the rule of keeping six feet from others at all times
Speaker Pelosi says House will get to work immediately to pass fifth package called “Heroes Bill” which will bring more relief to state and local governments
But the majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, says he does not want to move on to another large-scale relief bill which he says are just “blue state bailouts”
President Donald Trump (left) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right) have both said they are in favor of passing a relief bill that provides money to states and local governments, but also want more for infrastructure and lower payroll taxes.
COVID-19 is still on the rise in the United States as the death toll approaches 50,000 Thursday morning and there are more than 856,000 confirmed cases
WHAT’S IN THE $ 484 MILLION CORONAVIRUS BILL
The House adopted the Interim Emergency Relief Program on Thursday evening after the Senate finally reached agreement on the law and presented it to the upper house on Tuesday afternoon. Here’s where the $ 484 billion goes:
- $ 320 billion for the Small Business Administration’s paycheck protection program
– $ 125 billion will go to minority and women-owned businesses and “little mom-and-pop stores” that don’t have good banking connections
- $ 30 billion to increase production and distribution of coronavirus tests
– $ 11 billion will go to states to boost testing locally
- $ 75 billion for hospitals
- $ 60 billion for the Small Business Administration’s economic disaster loan program
- All remaining funds will go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies supporting coronavirus mitigation.
Democrats have promised the fifth bill would be another large-scale stimulus package, such as the $ 2.2 trillion CARES law signed by President Donald Trump in late March.
“We call it our heroes bill,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the upcoming legislation.
She said it will support those “who make our society work, who risk their own lives to save the lives of others.”
“We will spend it in the House,” she said, according to the Washington Post. ‘Yes [the Senate wants] to pass their own bill, we will go to conference. If they want to make a contribution that could be an improvement and something that we can all agree on, we will go to the table.
But the majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, made it clear that he did not want to move on to another bill so quickly, often calling the efforts “bailouts of the blue state.”
Unless federal government sends rescue money to state and local governments, Democrats say first responders, police and other essential workers will lose their jobs – while more than 22 million Americans have already claimed unemployment benefits in the last four weekly reporting periods.
Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have voiced support for a more ambitious fifth bill that includes financial relief for Canada’s small governments, money for infrastructure projects, and incentives for restaurants and places of entertainment and sport.
McConnell, however, expressed opposition to moving forward with another bill so soon, saying he would rather wait to discuss the potential for a fifth bill, known as “phase four” , until the Senate meets again on May 4.
“We are not ready to send a blank check to states and local governments to spend as they see fit,” McConnell told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday.
“I guess their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations and send it to them now so they don’t have to,” said McConnell of the states. “It’s not something I’m going to be in favor of. “
He also said it would give states the opportunity to file for bankruptcy rather than asking for more federal money to provide relief to troubled programs amid the coronavirus epidemic.
‘Oh really?’ Pelosi questioned from the floor of McConnell’s assertion. “What made you think it was a good idea?
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also tore up McConnell on Thursday for trashing a bailout of the states hardest hit by the disease.
“Senator Mitch McConnell comes out and says maybe the states should declare bankruptcy. Okay? This is one of the stupidest ideas of all time, “Cuomo said in his daily press briefing to Albany, who frequently helped shape the agenda for President Trump’s briefings late in the year. afternoon at the White House.
While Democrats want even more money in next stimulus package, some Senate Republicans have said they are opposed to the $ 484 billion interim relief package adopted on Tuesday that progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called of “small potatoes”.
The GOP says that printing and sending more money will not help the US economy recover, and that the only way to recover is to reopen states.
Republican senators Rand Paul from Kentucky and Mike Lee from Utah have both said that the only way to get the country back on track is to end the bottlenecks and allow businesses to reopen and operate normally.
State and local governments have pleaded with the federal government for more relief as record levels of residents face unemployment. Here, people line up at a weekly food bank in California to receive free food
Several states have started to reopen or set dates when they plan to start implementing end-of-lockout orders, as unemployment levels hit a record high after more than 22 people applied for benefits. during the last four weekly reporting periods.
After a few-day drop in coronavirus deaths, the rate has gone up – showing no real signs of slowing
The $ 484 billion package was originally proposed as a provision with almost half that amount to replenish the payment protection program with an additional $ 250 billion.
The PPP provides grants to small businesses to help pay rent and other expenses and keep employees on the payroll when they are forced to close.
The account, originally $ 350 billion, ran out of steam less than two weeks after the Small Business Administration capped the grant requests, capped at $ 10 million.
The PPP account will be topped up with approximately $ 320 billion once the bill is passed in the House on Thursday and signed by the President.
Voting will begin around 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, and it will likely take longer than usual, as members have to vote in waves to maintain the social distancing guidelines.
Majority House Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement earlier this week, giving members of Congress and women ample time to return to the nation’s capital to adopt the $ 484 billion measure.