With the backing of the White House and leaders in both parties, the U.S. House on Friday approved an emergency economic rescue plan to help the economy deal with the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, as lawmakers on both sides put aside their differences on the details of the over $2 trillion package. President Trump signed it into law several hours later.
"We need to support this bill now," said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL).
"The coronavirus has been a nuclear bomb to our economy," said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH).
"We've never faced a public health crisis of this magnitude," said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX).
The main theater in the House Chamber during debate was not about who was for or against the bill, but whether Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) would follow through on his threat to force a recorded vote on the measure, amid questions about whether enough lawmakers were present for a quorum.
Under the rules, Massie - who did not speak during the debate - needed the support of several dozen lawmakers to force a vote.
But Massie did not get that backing, and the bill was approved on a voice vote, to the applause of lawmakers, who sat both on the House floor, and in the galleries above.
In debate, lawmakers of both parties expressed concerns about how their local hospitals might not be able to deal with an outbreak of the virus.
"For those from rural districts like mine, our hospitals cannot handle the onslaught of patients," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). "Hospitals in my district face a situation as dire as it has been in my 18 years in Congress."
Lawmakers who flew back to Washington for the debate said the impact on the airline industry was obvious.
"There were two members of Congress on the plane out of a total of four passengers," said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who flew from St. Louis.
"You don't think that industry is on the brink of collapse - use it right now, and you will see," Davis added.
The House vote came as a third member of the House announced that he had tested positive, Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman Democrat from South Carolina.
The package includes direct checks to Americans, billions in emergency aid for businesses big and small, money for state and local governments, and help for hospitals fighting the Coronavirus.
“This is the biggest economic and health crisis the country has ever faced,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
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