The House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to pass the $484 billion coronavirus relief bill that includes additional money for the small businesses loan program, as well as aid to hospitals and to expand testing, sending the fourth bipartisan coronavirus bill to President Trump desk for his signature.
The vote was 388-5, with one member, Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) voted present. Four Republicans who voted no were Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Jody Hice of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York was the only Democrat to vote against the bill.
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents a district that has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, argued that the series of relief packages passed by Congress have not going far enough to help people in need and the current measure doesn’t have a safeguards to ensure mom-and-pop businesses receive such funding before big companies like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack.
“It is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill,” Ocasio-Cortez said in her floor speech before the vote. “The only folks that they have urgency around are folks like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack. Those are the people getting assistance in this bill. You are not trying to fix this bill for mom and pops.”
“We have to fight to fund hospitals. Fighting to fund testing. That is what we’re fighting for in this bill,” she added. “It is unconscionable. If you have urgency, you would legislate like rent was due on May 1.”
The measure, which the Senate passed unanimously on Tuesday, provides an immediate $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that provides forgivable loans in the form of a grant to small businesses devastated by the pandemic. The PPP was allotted $349 billion from the $2 trillion package that was enacted last month and quickly the funds were dried up last week due to heavy demands. Roughly $60 billion of the additional PPP funds would be directed to rural and minority-owned companies.
The vote comes after the Labor Department reported 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the total to now over 26 million laid off or furloughed since the pandemic. Republican lawmakers on the floor speech blamed Democrats of delaying the small-business aid by two weeks in order to force their wish list into the bill.
“This bill was 16 days too late,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) said. “It got held up by all this extracurricular stuff.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), said the additional funds for small businesses should have been passed immediately after the Trump Administration asked for it on April 7.
“To those 4.4 million Americans that were laid off this week — Congress owes you an apology,” he said. “You did not have to have that happen.”
In addition, the legislation also provides another $60 billion for an economic disaster-relief program, $75 billion for hospitals and health care facilities to address coronavirus expenses and lost revenue and $25 billion to facilitate and increased coronavirus testing that will be divided between state and federal governments.
This was the first time in about a month the House resumed session since March 27, when they passed the historic massive $2 trillion CARES Act by a voice vote. Only 35 lawmakers didn’t return to the Capitol.
The massive package is the fourth coronavirus bill to move through Congress in less than two months, which now brings the federal emergency relief effort to a total of $2.8 trillion. It caps two weeks of tense negotiations between the White House and Democrat leaders over the funding for the deal.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law by Friday.
Before the vote, the Democratic-led House voted to establish a special oversight committee to oversee the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. The vote was 212-182, along party lines.