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COVID-19 Update: House Passes Coronavirus Relief Package by Voice Vote

Less than 48 hours after the U.S. Senate passed its nearly $6 trillion relief package, the House swiftly moved to pass the coronavirus relief legislation and rush it to President Donald Trump’s desk, where he’s expected to sign it soon.

A brief reminder of what’s in the coronavirus relief bill
Photo by Andrew Davey

For a more thorough review of this roughly $6 trillion package, check my write-up from Wednesday. Here, I’ll quickly summarize what’s in it: One-time $1,200 “corona checks” for most Americans earning under $75,000 in annual taxable income (per adult, based on IRS data from last year), $600 weekly unemployment insurance payments for affected workers (including many who had previously been excluded from unemployment insurance benefits), $130 billion for hospitals to restock on needed supplies and treat more patients, $150 billion in aid for state, local, and tribal governments, and about $367 billion worth of aid for small businesses.

This bill has run into some criticism from conservatives who recoil over its nearly $6 trillion price tag. Meanwhile, it’s also run into criticism from some progressives who contend the aid provisions for individuals, hospitals, and state and local authorities are not enough to tide them over for very long.

The bill is also facing some additional scrutiny over the corporate relief provision, where Congress is essentially giving the Trump administration $454 billion to hand over to the Federal Reserve to “lever up” a roughly $4.5 trillion leveraged lending program for major corporations. The White House and members of Congress are forbidden from personally profiting from this program, but there are few requirements that beneficiaries use this money to keep workers on their payrolls and pay them livable wages.

How it passed so quickly today
Official portrait of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, photographed January 11, 2019 in the Office of the Speaker in the United States Capitol.

Considering the real danger of crowds forming in close quarters, we can understand why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) didn’t want to put members through the risk of forming a crowd to vote on the House floor. However, this didn’t stop Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) from demanding one anyways in order to put all House representatives on record with a roll call vote.

The Kentucky arch-conservative opposed the social safety net provisions of the bill and objected to Pelosi’s attempt to speed passage via unanimous consent or a voice vote. Massie’s last minute protest ultimately proved futile, as Pelosi managed to gain a quorum in time today to secure passage via a voice vote.

The bill now goes to Trump, where he will soon sign it into law.

How did our representatives vote?

While Massie got the most attention with his vocal opposition, other conservatives like Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) decried the bill as “corporate welfare”. And on the left, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) took to the House floor to condemn the package as “one of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American history”.

But closer to home, all of Nevada’s representatives voiced their approval. On the House floor this morning, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) urged its passage and exclaimed, “No person in this country should worry about putting food on the table or paying their bills while trying to keep themselves, their families, and their neighbors safe. With this bill, I hope that America’s working families who are struggling will know that their representatives in Congress are in their corner, fighting tooth and nail for them.”

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) also took to the House floor to explain her support: “So many families in Southern Nevada are struggling right now and I want them to know that some help is on the way. I’m proud to support this bill because it will provide more resources to hospitals and patients, more help to small businesses and the unemployed, and more oversight of CEOs. Most Americans will see tangible benefits from this recovery package, including in the form of direct payments.”

In addition, Reps. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) and Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) also affirmed their support for the legislation today. And in recent hours, Pelosi has said, “This cannot be our final bill,” in promising additional relief in the weeks ahead. With Nevada having 535 who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 (as of this morning), ten confirmed COVID-19 deaths, and the strong likelihood of more positive cases in the days ahead, our state’s leaders and health care providers will probably be hoping for Pelosi to deliver on that promise.

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