Over objections from Kentucky Representative Kevin Massie, R-Ky., who had asked for a roll call vote, the House of Representatives passed the $2 Trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) with a voice vote. The Senate had approved the bill earlier this week, with a vote of 96-0.
The enormous legislation packet passed the House after four and a half hours of speeches from representatives. The act attempts to alleviate some of the personal and economic suffering caused by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
The House had planned to pass the measure with a voice vote, but Massie said he would object to that, calling for a quorum and forcing a recorded vote. This sent House members unhappily scurrying back to the Capitol to ensure they had both a quorum and enough delegates to deny the motion for a roll call vote.
The bill also passed despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desire that the bill include more spending. In a speech before passing the CARES ACT, she quoted a prayer that Pope Francis had given in a video message on March 19, “Enlighten those responsible for the common good, so that they might know — like you do — how to care for those entrusted to their responsibility.”
During her speech she also called for bigger direct payments to individuals, more expanded family leave, increase funding for food assistance programs and free treatment for the virus for all.
Among other provisions, the CARES Act:
- Provides direct payments to qualified individuals with checks of $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for couples, and $500 for children, based on tax-filing status and income levels.
- Significantly boosts unemployment insurance benefits, expanding eligibility and offering workers an additional $600 a week for four months, on top of what state unemployment programs pay.
- Includes $500 billion for a major corporate liquidity program through the Federal Reserve, which will be overseen by an inspector general and an oversight board.
- Makes up to $150 billion available to States, Tribal governments, and local governments.
- Offers up to $100 billion for hospitals and providers.
- Provides up to $367 billion in federally guaranteed loans for small businesses.
After passage of the act, the House then went into recess until March 31. The bill now goes to President Trump for signing.