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 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 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.
Ultimately, however House leadership was able to deny Massie a sufficient second in support of a roll call vote when he made a request for it, shutting down the demand and allowing the House to approve the package by voice vote instead. But members still had to return to Washington in order to establish a quorum and deny the attempt.
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 faced 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 House members not to return to Washington for a full roll call vote.
But Massie announced Friday that he would request a full roll-call vote.
“I came here to make sure our Republic doesn’t deny by unanimous consent in an empty chamber and I request a recorded vote,” Massie said on the House floor in an attempt to force the full vote.
A quorum of the House — 216 members — was needed to block Massie’s attempt.
Massie made a point of order that a quorum was not present, but it was determined that a quorum was in fact present and the motion was adopted.
Members who made it to DC for the debate attempted to maintain social distancing, with some staying on the House floor while others sat in the upstairs gallery above the chamber, where the public usually sits.
Trump sharply criticized the congressman on Friday, saying in a pair of tweets that he “just wants the publicity” and should be thrown out of the Republican party.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
“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!,” the President said.
The congressman told a local radio station Thursday that he’s “having a really hard time” with the bill, and didn’t seem too concerned about lawmakers’ difficulties in getting back to Washington.
“If congressmen are complaining that it’s hard to travel, well, what about the truckers that I saw on the road when I drove to DC? Hitch a ride with the trucker. … If you’re a congressman making $87 an hour and find it hard to get to DC, well, hitch a ride with the trucker,” Massie said on 55KRC talk radio.