WASHINGTON – The House voted to pass a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package – the largest emergency aid bill in history – that will offer $1,200 checks to Americans, extensive unemployment benefits for those out of work and financial relief to businesses and the health care industry hard-hit by the worsening crisis.
The House’s vote allows the bill to head to President Donald Trump’s desk for final approval. Trump has signaled he will sign the bill.
The vote comes one day after the U.S. reached two grim milestones, becoming the country with the most coronavirus cases in the world and reporting a record 3.28 million workers who applied for unemployment benefits in one week – the highest number in history since the Department of Labor started tracking data in 1967. The massive package aims to offer a financial lifeline to Americans and businesses that are hurting while also offering reassurance to the markets, which have been battered by fears that shutdowns related to the pandemic could throw the economy into a deep recession.
So far, COVID-19 has killed nearly 1,300 people in the U.S. and infected about 86,000. Efforts to mitigate its spread has left businesses closed and many Americans out of work.
Among the provisions in the measure are $1,200 checks to individuals, strengthened unemployment benefits that will offer workers an additional $600 weekly for four months, $367 billion in loans and grants to small businesses, over $130 billion for hospitals and community health centers and financial help to airlines and other industries affected by the virus.
– Christal Hayes
Trump urges GM, Ford to make ventilators
President Donald Trump urged automakers General Motors and Ford to begin manufacturing ventilators, critical medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients, and mentioned invoking the Defense Production Act to compel those companies to begin mass production.
“General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS NOW!!!!!!” he tweeted. “FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”
The president tweeted “Invoke ‘P'” which he clarified in a later tweet meant the Defense Production Act, a wartime authority that allows him to direct companies to speed the production of medical equipment including ventilators, masks and other supplies to help health care workers treat coronavirus patients.
While he mentioned his authority to invoke the DPA, Trump did not make clear whether he was going to use the act to compel the companies to make ventilators or whether he was just raising the threat to do so.
Trump appeared to be responding to a New York Times report that found the White House stopped short of approving a $1 billion dollar deal with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to produce up to 80,000 of the much-needed ventilators after government officials said they needed more time to weigh the price tag, according to the newspaper.
The president has faced mounting criticism from state and local officials for not formally enforcing the DPA to compel companies to expedite the production of medical supplies amid a widespread shortage of equipment across the country.
“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly.’ Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar,” Trump tweeted.
– Courtney Subramanian
House expected to have enough members to hold recorded vote on stimulus bill
The House is expected to have enough members present to vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package Friday, according to a leadership aide.
That’s important because frustrated House members rushed back to D.C. Friday so the House would have the majority present to hold a recorded vote that Rep. Thomas Massie plans to request.
Massie, R-Ky., angered both parties, as well as President Donald Trump, by asking for the recorded vote, which requires at least a majority be present in the House to record their votes.
The House had planned to approve the measure by voice vote, meaning it would pass with present members calling out either “aye” or “nay,” a method that did not require a majority. Leaders wanted lawmakers to stay home due to concerns that having them travel could further spread the virus within Congress. Already, two House lawmakers have tested positive for the virus and more than two dozen have gone into quarantine over the last several weeks.
House Democrats and Republicans worked together throughout Friday to tally the votes to get to the magic number – 216 – to hold a recorded vote.
Massie explained his rationale in a series of tweets.
“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?”
– Christal Hayes
‘Disaster for America’: Trump lashes out at Massie
President Donald Trump lashed out at Rep. Thomas Massie as a “grandstander” and “disaster for America” who should be thrown out of the GOP for the Kentucky Republican’s opposition to a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package expected to pass in the House Friday.
“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,” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous…& costly,” Trump added.
The president said it has been “HELL” working with Democrats to negotiate the bill, conceding that he “had to give up some stupid things in order to get the ‘big picture done.'”
After calling on the GOP to retake the House in November, Trump added, “but throw Massie out of the Republican Party!”
In a follow up tweet, Trump said Massie was “empowering the Radical Left Democrats” and declared: “He is a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky!”
Massie has also threatened to request lawmakers vote in person on the bill, forcing House lawmakers to rush back to Washington Friday in order to have enough lawmakers present to vote on the measure.
The House had planned to approve the package while keeping its hundreds of members home over concerns about further spreading the virus. Two House lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19.
Members were planning to use a voice vote in which those present in the House would call out either “aye” or ‘nay.” Such a method doesn’t require a majority to be present. But if even just one member requests a recorded vote, which Massie has threatened to do, it would require more than half of House members to be present on the floor to cast votes in person on the measure.
Several lawmakers lambasted Massie for forcing them back to Washington. But at least one, Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, defended Massie and told Trump 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,” Roy tweeted. “I may miss vote if he forces roll call (flights) but it will pass. Back off.”
– Courtney Subramanian