The House in the early hours of Saturday morning passed a sweeping financial relief package to assist people affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The final vote was 363 to 40. All House Democrats supported the plan while 40 Republicans opposed it. Independent Justin Amash of Michigan voted “present” after he criticized the short timeframe to review the revised bill, tweeting that he was “reading fast.”
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act would create a national paid sick leave policy for the first time – only through this year to address the coronavirus outbreak. Employers with less than 500 workers, as well as government employers, would have to provide two weeks of paid sick leave. The bill would also allow for workers to have up to three months of paid family and medical leave related to being quarantined or caring for children whose schools are closed because of the coronavirus. Workers would receive a benefit from their employers amounting to at least two-thirds of their usual pay.
Additionally, the bill includes free coronavirus testing, enhanced unemployment insurance, food security measures, and increased Medicaid funding. A provision pushed by the GOP would provide for refundable tax credits as a way to help defray the costs for businesses adapting to the paid leave requirements.
Pelosi has been engaged in intense negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this past week. Aides said they spoken 13 separate times over hours of intense negotiations on Friday as they attempted to close out the final major hurdle.
“We thought it would be important to show the American people, assure the American people, that we are willing and able to work together to get a job done for them,” Pelosi said. “So we thank our Republicans — those who will be supporting the bill. We appreciate the president joining us with his tweet.”
President Trump in a series of tweets announced his support for the measure.
“I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, which will be voted on in the House this evening,” Trump tweeted. “This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers. I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt. I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!”
….the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt. I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! I will always put….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2020
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy offered rare praise for Pelosi after the deal was struck, stating: “Regardless of the partisanship here, at this time in this place, we will come together to put the American public first.”
The negotiation between Pelosi and Mnuchin did not include in the legislation a payroll tax cut, and that omission emerged as one of the obstacles to reaching a deal. McCarthy, who met with both Trump and Mnuchin multiple times on Friday said Congress will push for a payroll tax cut in future aid package that could come later this month.
“I believe this will not be the only one,” McCarthy said. “This is something that the president wants, we would have liked to have that as well. I think that would have taken a little more time to be able to get that done by this week. But I think you’ll see that continue to come forward.”
The legislation, which is expected to be approved by the GOP Senate when it returns on Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement shortly after Saturday’s vote that the Senate “will need to carefully review” the House measure.
“Of course, Senators will need to carefully review the version just passed by the House. But I believe the vast majority of Senators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses,” McConnell said.