The House on Friday passed a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, defeating a move by a rogue lawmaker to hold up a vote on the legislation, which now heads to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The threat from Republican Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky united President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy in anger against him.
The legislation passed the House by a voice vote in under two minutes on Friday afternoon, after the Senate passed it unanimously on Wednesday. President Trump will sign it into law at the White House on Friday afternoon.
The package – which offers loans to small businesses, individual checks to Americans, and aid to industries effected by the coronavirus – is the largest stimulus package passed in congressional history, beating out the financial bailout of 2008.
It was a remarkable feat of legislative work. For a branch of government known for its slow pace, the package came together in just under a week with round-the-clock negotiations taking place with House and Senate leadership in conjunction with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who led the effort for the administration.
‘We are all a family and like many families we have our differences but we all know what is important to us,’ Pelosi said after the vote was completed. And, in a sign of the bipartisanship at work, McCarthy joined her for the signing ceremony, which is rare for the leader of the opposition party to do.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the House floor ahead of the vote on the $2 trillion coronavirus package, which passed after leaders defeated a move by Rep. Thomas Massie
Speaker Pelosi signed the approved bill, which will be signed by President Trump into law
In a sign of bipartisanship, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy joined Speaker Pelosi for the signing ceremony, a rare thing for the opposition leader to do
Speaker Pelosi’s signature; President Trump will sign the package into law Friday afternoon
But the work was threatened Thursday night when Massie made it known he was uncomfortable with the legislation passing by unanimous consent – a procedure typically used for noncontroversial legislation – instead of a roll call vote, which would leave a record of how each lawmaker voted.
Massie made it known he would object to the voice vote and ask for a roll call vote, which would require a quorum of lawmakers on the House floor. Leadership had objected to that on the grounds it was dangerous for some lawmakers to travel during the pandemic.
And leaders were prepared to counter Massie’s move.
Pelosi, who, as Speaker of the House, is the final speaker ahead of any vote, told lawmakers to make their way to the chamber.
‘The sooner you come, the shorter my remarks will be,’ she said to chuckles from the lawmakers in the chamber.
‘Right now we’re going to pass this legislation,’ she said, adding ‘we know this will not be the final bill’ to address the fallout from the coronavirus.
In preparation for the vote Friday afternoon, the lawmakers who made it to Washington D.C. for the vote, in order to obey proper social distancing practices, spread out to sit on the House floor and in the public galleries looking over the chamber in order to keep the recommended six feet between them.
In a notice to lawmakers before the vote, leaders on both sides of the aisle told members they ‘are strongly advised to remain seated during’ Massie’s request for a recorded vote.
Rep. Thomas Massie tried to over ride House leadership’s wish for a voice vote on the coronavirus package
Rep. Anthony Brown, who was presiding over the House during the vote, gaveled the passage of the coronavirus measure to a close
Rep. Thomas Massie leaves the Capitol building after his failed attempt to call a roll call vote on the $2 trillion coronavirus package
The vote on the package was called for and Massie made his move.
‘I came here to make sure our republic doesn’t die by unanimous consent in an empty chamber and I request a recorded vote,’ he said.
When Massie made his request to hold a roll call vote, Rep. Anthony Brown, the presiding officer in the speaker’s chair, pointed out that not enough members rose to back his request. House rules require one-fifth of lawmakers to stand up in support.
‘An insufficient amount having risen, a recorded vote is refused,’ Brown said.
Massie then protested, saying there is not a quorum of lawmakers present.
‘I object on the basis a quorum is not present,’ he said.
Brown then counted the lawmakers seated in the chamber and galleries. He ruled there was a quorum present and thereby denied Massie’s request for a roll call vote.
‘A quorum is present. The motion is adopted,’ Brown declared and gaveled the vote to a close.
The lawmakers in the chamber gave a standing ovation.
Lawmakers spread out on the House floor and sat in the galleries above the chamber to keep to social distancing guidelines
Before the House vote got underway, President Trump railed against Massie for his threat to call a roll call vote on the measure, which would have delayed its passage, and called on the GOP to throw the eight-term lawmaker out of the party.
Massie, who was a vocal defender of the president’s during the impeachment inquiry, made it clear he would not bow down to pressure from the party’s leader.
‘I swore an oath to uphold the constitution, and I take that oath seriously. In a few moments I will request a vote on the CARES Act which means members of Congress will vote on it by pushing “yes” or “no” or “present,”‘ Massie wrote on Twitter.
‘The Constitution requires that a quorum of members be present to conduct business in the House. Right now, millions of essential, working-class Americans are still required to go to work during this pandemic such as manufacturing line workers, healthcare professionals, pilots, grocery clerks, cooks/chefs, delivery drivers, auto mechanics, and janitors (to name just a few). Is it too much to ask that the House do its job, just like the Senate did?,’ he added.
He announced his decision after he was spotted in a conversation on the House floor with McCarthy and Pelosi.
The two leaders pushed for a vote on the package by unanimous consent, which would allow lawmakers to stay in their districts instead of traveling during the pandemic. Many members of the House are in their 60s or above, which puts them at higher risk if they contract the virus.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were furious at having to travel at risk to their health to vote on a bill that all agreed was going to pass no matter how the vote was taken.
President Trump railed against Rep. Thomas Massie, a member of his own party who threatened to hold up Friday’s House vote on the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package
President Trump blasted Rep. Thomas Massie and suggested he be thrown out of the GOP
Massie sparked fury from both Republicans and Democrats with his move, which united two branches of government against him.
‘Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress. He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous & costly,’ President Trump complained on Twitter Friday morning.
‘Workers & small businesses need money now in order to survive. Virus wasn’t their fault. It is “HELL” dealing with the Dems, had to give up some stupid things in order to get the “big picture” done. 90% GREAT! WIN BACK HOUSE, but throw Massie out of Republican Party!,’ he added.
John Kerry, a former senator who was secretary of state under Barack Obama, said he agreed with President Trump about Massie and he called the congressman an ‘a**hole.’
‘Breaking news: Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an a**hole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity. He’s given new meaning to the term #Masshole. (Finally, something the president and I can agree on!),’ he tweeted.
President Trump gave Kerry his approval.
‘Never knew John Kerry had such a good sense of humor! Very impressed!,’ Trump tweeted back to him.
But Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas stepped in to defend Massie, telling the president to ‘back off.’
‘.@RepThomasMassie is one of the most principled men in Congress & loves his country. He is defending the Constitution today by requiring a quorum. There’s nothing 3rd rate about that, @realDonaldTrump. I may miss vote if he forces roll call (flights) but it will pass. Back off,’ Roy tweeted.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arriving in the Capitol Friday morning, reassured her lawmakers the coronavirus package would pass
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy urged lawmakers to get to Washington D.C. for the vote
Leadership planned to do the voice vote so lawmakers would not have to travel during the pandemic.
Additionally it would help keep the virus out of the Capitol, where two House members – Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida, and Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah – and one senator, Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky, have tested positive for it.
After the vote concluded Friday, Republican Rep. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina announced he tested positive. Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from California who showed symptoms, announced her was negative.
Thursday evening leadership for both parties sent out notice to lawmakers to get to Washington D.C. if they could – an action they hoped to avoid.
‘Members are advised that it is possible this measure will not pass by voice vote. Members are encouraged to follow the guidance of their local and state health officials. However, if they are able and willing to be in Washington D.C. by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, Members are encouraged to do so with caution,’ leaders warned lawmakers.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle boarded planes back to Washington D.C. – and grumbled about it given the guarantee the package will pass as it had support from both Republicans and Democrats.
‘Heading to the airport now to vote in DC. am going just like every person that picks our food, works at a hospital, picks up the garbage. I am doing it because it is my f***ing job. But I get a comfortable salary, our essential workers should get same. #coronavirus,’ wrote Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego on Twitter on Friday morning.
Other lawmakers citied safety concerns about trying to contain the virus.
‘Heading to Washington to vote on pandemic legislation. Because of one Member of Congress refusing to allow emergency action entire Congress must be called back to vote in House. Risk of infection and risk of legislation being delayed. Disgraceful. Irresponsible,’ wrote Republican Rep. Peter King on Twitter.
Lawmakers, such as Rep. Dina Titus, tweeted images of deserted airports and planes as they made their way back to the Capitol.
The relief package provides loans to small businesses, direct checks to Americans and aid to industries hit hard by the virus; above a nurse conducts a coronavirus test in Seattle
The House gaveled into session at 9 a.m. and held three hours of debate on the package.
The debate began with lawmakers from both parties switching back-and-forth to talk about the legislation.
Some lawmakers grew emotional.
Rep. Haley Stevens, a Democrat wearing pink latex gloves with a black suit and big pearl necklace, had a meltdown on the House floor when discussing the legislation.
‘I rise for every American who is scared right now,’ she said, waving her glove-clad hands in the air.
She grew emotional when talking about the pandemic, talking louder and waving her hands frantically. With her time up, Rep. Anthony Brown, who was the presiding officer of the House, tried to end her speech.
But she kept talking even as Brown banged his gavel and called on her to stop.
‘To our doctors and nurses, I wear these latex gloves to tell every American: Do not be afraid!,’ she said. ‘I rise before you adorning these latex gloves not for personal attention — not for personal attention — but to encourage you to take this disease seriously.’
‘The gentle lady is out of order,’ Brown said, banging his gavel.
But Stevens kept yelling over him even as her mic was turned off, shouting about medical workers as other lawmakers on the floor called on her to stop.
‘Similar times have tried the medical staff: wars and flus past. You will see darkness, you will be pushed. Our society needs you to stand together at this time. Our country loves you,’ she yelled.
Brown again cut her off and ruled her out of order and out of time. She conceded the floor back to Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
Rep. Haley Stevens, a Democrat wearing pink latex gloves with a black suit and big pearl necklace, had a meltdown on the House floor when discussing the legislation
Lawmakers ruled Rep. Stevens out of order for her comments
Safety measures were taken during the vote and its proceeding debate to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Lawmakers were required to use hand sanitizer before arriving on House floor and after leaving. The Speaker’s Lobby, the area outside the House chamber where lawmakers and members of the media usually gather, is closed.
Lawmakers also were asked to have no more than two members in an elevator at a time and not to bring staff with them to the vote.
‘We have members on both sides of the aisle who have the virus. We have members who are quarantined. We have members who have challenges with airlines, getting their flights canceled. We will have enough to get this through, but the floor will look different,’ McCarthy said on Thursday.
The House vote came after the passed it.
Wednesday night’s unanimous Senate vote on the bill was striking – a united front that followed days of sometimes tumultuous negotiations and partisan eruptions with all 96 senators present voting yes.
It was the third such legislation passed to give economic relief in the wake of the virus, which has shuttered businesses and strained the economy. There have been over 81,000 cases of the virus in the United States.
The legislation will include $500 billion in direct payments to people in two waves of checks.
The funds include $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year before phasing out and ending altogether for those earning more than $99,000. That would result in $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.
And there may be more to come as fourth and fifth economic packages could follow if the virus continues to spread.
WHAT’S IN $2 TRILLION ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE?
Loans and guarantees to businesses, state and local governments: $500 billion. Includes up to $50 billion for passenger airlines, $8 billion for cargo carriers, $17 billion for “businesses critical to maintaining national security.” Companies accepting loans may not repurchase outstanding stock; must maintain their employment levels as of March 13, 2020 “to the extent practicable”; and bar raises for two years to executives earning over $425,000 annually. Companies are not eligible for loans if top administration officials, members of Congress or their families have 20% control.
Small businesses: Includes $350 billion in loans for companies with 500 employees or fewer, including nonprofits, self-employed people and hotel and restaurant chains with no more than 500 workers per location. Government provides eight weeks of cash assistance through loans to cover payroll, rent and other expenses, much of which would be forgiven if the company retains workers. Also $17 billion to help small businesses repay existing loans; $10 billion for grants up to $10,000 for small businesses to pay operating costs.
Emergency unemployment insurance: $260 billion. Includes extra 13 weeks of coverage for people who have exhausted existing benefits. Also covers part-time, self-employed, gig economy workers. Weekly benefit increase of up to $600.
Health care: $150 billion. Includes $100 billion for grants to hospitals, public and nonprofit health organizations and Medicare and Medicaid suppliers.
Aid to state and local governments: $150 billion, with at least $1.5 billion for smallest states.
Direct payments to people: One-time payments of $1,200 per adult, $2,400 per couple, $500 per child. Amounts begin phasing out at $75,000 for individuals, $150,000 per couple.
Tax breaks: Temporarily waives penalties for virus-related early withdrawals and eases required minimum annual disbursements from some retirement accounts; increases deductions for charitable contributions. Employers who pay furloughed workers can get tax credits for some of those payments. Postpones business payments of payroll taxes until 2021 or 2022.
Department of Homeland Security: $45 billion for a disaster relief fund to reimburse state and local governments for medical response, community services, other safety measures. Extends federal deadline for people getting driver’s licenses with enhanced security features, called REAL ID, from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021.
Education: $31 billion. Includes $13.5 billion for states to distribute to local schools and programs, $14 billion to help universities and colleges.
Coronavirus treatments: $27 billion for research and development of vaccines and treatments, stockpiling medical supplies.
Transportation: Includes $25 billion for public transit systems; $10 billion for publicly owned commercial airports, intended to sustain 430,000 transit jobs; $1 billion for Amtrak.
Veterans: $20 billion, including $16 billion for treating veterans at VA facilities; $3 billion for temporary and mobile facilities.
Food and agriculture: $15.5 billion for food stamps; $14 billion for supporting farm income and crop prices; $9.5 billion for specific producers including specialty crops, dairy and livestock; $8.8 billion child nutrition. Money for food banks, farmers’ markets.
Defense: $10.5 billion for Defense Department, including $1.5 billion to nearly triple the 4,300 beds currently in military hospitals; $1.4 billion for states to deploy up to 20,000 members of National Guard for six months; $1 billion under Defense Production Act to help private industry boost production of medical gear. Money cannot be used to build President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along Mexican border.
Social programs: Includes $3.5 billion in grants for child care and early education programs; $1 billion in grants to help communities address local economic problems; $900 million in heating, cooling aid for low-income families; $750 million for extra staffing for Head Start programs.
Economic aid to communities: $5 billion in Community Development Block Grants to help state and local governments expand health facilities, child care centers, food banks and senior services; $4 billion in assistance for homeless people; $3 billion for low-income renters; $1.5 billion to help communities rebuild local industries including tourism, industry supply chains, business loans; $300 million for fishing industry.
Native American communities: $2 billion for health care, equipment schools and other needs.
Diplomacy: $1.1 billion, including $324 million to evacuate Americans and diplomats overseas; $350 million to help refugees; $258 million in international disaster aid; $88 million for the Peace Corps to evacuate its volunteers abroad.
Elections: $400 million to help states prepare for 2020 elections with steps including expanded vote by mail, additional polling locations.
Arts: $150 million for federal grants to state and local arts and humanities programs; $75 million for Corporation for Public Broadcasting; $25 million for Washington, D.C., Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Congress: $93 million, including $25 million for the House and $10 million for the smaller Senate for teleworking and other costs; $25 million for cleaning the Capitol and congressional office buildings.