House passes historic $2 trillion stimulus package

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(CNN) — The House of Representatives on Friday approved the historic $2 trillion stimulus package that passed the Senate earlier this week, overcoming last-minute drama by using an unusual procedural move to thwart a demand by a conservative Republican to force members to vote in person.

The Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, infuriated members in both parties by bringing them back to Washington amid uncertainty over whether he would request a full roll call vote. That uncertainty forced many to travel during the public health emergency simply to deny his demand in order to ensure swift passage of the measure on Friday.

The bill now goes to President Donald Trump’s for his signature as the American public and the US economy fight the devastating spread of Covid-19.

The far-reaching legislation stands as the largest emergency aid package in US history. It represents a massive financial injection into a struggling economy with provisions aimed at helping American workers, small businesses and industries grappling with the economic disruption.

Key elements of the package include sending checks directly to individuals and families, a major expansion of unemployment benefits, money for hard-hit hospitals and health care providers, financial assistance for small businesses and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.

House leaders face pressure to pass the legislation as quickly as possible and minimize the risks to their members in the process — and the bill had been expected to be taken up by voice vote, a move that would allow for quick passage and was designed to permit most House members not to return to Washington for a full roll call vote.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky announced Friday that he would request a full roll-call vote, though sources have told CNN there may be procedural steps to deny Massie’s request from requiring a recorded vote.

“I swore an oath to uphold the constitution, and I take that oath seriously,” Massie tweeted just before noon ET, on Friday.

“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.'”

Despite that, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said that the bill would pass Friday without a roll-call vote.

Key provisions in the stimulus

A centerpiece of the stimulus package is that it will provide direct financial assistance to Americans in the form of checks with the amount received based on income.

Individuals who earn $75,000 in adjusted gross income or less would get direct payments of $1,200 each, with married couples earning up to $150,000 receiving $2,400 — and an additional $500 per each child.

The payment would scale down by income, phasing out entirely at $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples without children.

In addition, the bill would provide billions of dollars in aid to hard-hit hospitals struggling to deal with the outbreak as well for state and local governments that are cash-strapped due to their response to coronavirus.

One point of contention in negotiations centered around a fund for distressed industries, with Democrats worrying that there would not be adequate oversight. In a compromise move, the final deal provides for accountability through an independent Inspector General and congressional oversight panel.

After the passage of the bill, Rep. Kendra Horn released the following statement:

“Oklahomans need relief now,” said Congresswoman Horn. “Though imperfect, today’s bipartisan deal focuses support and relief where it is most needed and takes immediate and necessary action to address the health and economic crisis we face. For families and individuals struggling to make ends meet, this bill provides historic relief through expanded unemployment benefits and direct payments to 125 million Americans. For health care workers on the front lines, the CARES Act makes an unprecedented investment in personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and infrastructure. For small businesses, this legislation begins to deliver the resources needed to stay afloat and retain their workforce. And for taxpayers this bill provides strong transparency, oversight, and accountability. We must continue to work in a bipartisan way to deliver targeted relief. We cannot allow partisan politics to derail our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all in this together.”

Congressman Tom Cole released the following statement:

“It is not lost on me how consequential this legislation is for our nation. Along with many of my colleagues, I wish I could be there in person to voice my support for this historically massive and wide-reaching legislation,” said Cole. “But despite many member absences in our chamber, that doesn’t make the House of Representatives any less united in our support of this significant relief package for the American people, who are greatly suffering by no fault of their own due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The natural disaster caused by COVID-19 is unlike any other our nation has encountered in modern history. Its impact is severely felt across the whole of society – causing an unprecedented strain on our public health defenders and medical providers as well as sharp economic losses and unexpected disruptions for Americans of all stripes.

“Hardworking Americans, families, communities, small businesses and numerous industries have been hit hard and fast in a matter of days and weeks. Given the enormous scope of this disaster, its consequences and the damage already done, it is critically important to get help to those Americans facing difficult times. I am encouraged that the CARES Act extends a much needed helping hand.

“To help individuals and families weather this storm, the CARES Act provides financial assistance in the form of direct cash payments and unemployment support. The legislation provides unprecedented help to sustain small businesses and their workers, after many businesses on Main Street have been forced to close their doors to comply with the guidance and orders from federal, state, local and tribal officials.

“For our health workers fighting on the front lines across the nation, this relief package replenishes vital medical supplies like masks, respirators and other equipment. Moreover, it provides reinforcement supplies and resources for state and local response efforts. 

“Finally, I worked very hard to ensure tribal nations are equipped to face and fight the unknown challenges ahead with this coronavirus like other state and local authorities. Oklahoma is home to 39 sovereign tribes, and each one plays an invaluable role in the lives and health of their members and surrounding communities. I am proud that this relief package dedicates generous resources specifically for tribal nations to respond.”

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