WASHINGTON — The U.S. House early Saturday morning approved an emergency stimulus package to combat the coronavirus pandemic after President Donald Trump signaled his support for the bill.
The multi-billion dollar package aims to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, and mitigate its economic effects as fears of recession loom.
Michigan has 25 presumptive positive COVID-19 cases, as of this story’s publication. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday declared a state emergency.
A statewide coronavirus hotline will be open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-888-535-6136. Information can be found on the DHHS website or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention reports there are 1,629 confirmed and presumptive positive coronavirus cases in the United States, and 41 deaths caused by the virus. The CDC reported that COVID-19 had been reported in 46 states and Washington, D.C. The World Health Organization reports there are 142,320 confirmed cases worldwide and 5,388 deaths.
The bill — the Families First Coronavirus Response Act — passed 363-40, with overwhelming bipartisan support. The 40 votes against the bill were all Republicans. Another 26 lawmakers did not vote.
Thirteen of 14 Michigan lawmakers — seven Democrats and six Republicans — voted yes. The chamber’s only independent, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Cascade Twp.), voted “present” on the bill.
“House leaders gave us less than 30 minutes to review the revised bill,” Amash wrote on Twitter. “My staff and I had reviewed prior drafts, and we worked quickly to compare the 110 pages. Upon review, it was clear I couldn’t responsibly vote for the bill. Some key provisions appeared unworkable as drafted. This entire legislative process was unacceptable, especially on such an important issue. With the Senate not returning until Monday, there was no reason for House leaders to rush passage of the bill after midnight, without giving us time to confer and deliberate. I voted present.”
Passage came hours after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the pandemic, freeing up as much as $50 billion to help the country weather the pandemic and waiving restrictions on health providers and facilities.
The House bill would provide free access to tests for the virus, including for those without health insurance. It would also give workers affected by the virus paid family and sick leave, boost unemployment benefits, strengthen government food programs for children, older people and those with low incomes and help states meet expenses for Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor.
“The three most important parts of this bill are testing, testing, testing,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a news conference ahead of the vote. “We can only defeat this outbreak if we have an accurate determination of its scale and scope so that we can pursue the precise, science-based response that is necessary.”
U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) said the bill “will help us combat the coronavirus by ensuring that sick people can stay home without worrying about having their basic needs met.
“We will not stop this pandemic unless sick people have the financial security to stay home from work and isolate themselves. We are facing a serious crisis in this country, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will give the American people the support they need as we work together to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19,” she added.
Pelosi was engaged in intense negotiations over the bill with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional Republicans ahead of the vote. Trump tweeted his support for the measure ahead of its passage.
“I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act,” he wrote. “I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! … Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”
The legislation will now move to the U.S. Senate, which is expected to take it up next week.
U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) called on the Senate “to get it to [Trump’s] desk as fast as possible so its needed relief can go into effect.
“The Coronavirus outbreak is a serious public health issue that requires the cooperation of all individuals, communities, businesses, public organizations and levels of government. That is why tonight I supported the Families First Coronavirus Response Act when it passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis,” he added.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tweeted Thursday that the Senate would cancel its scheduled recess next week to consider “bipartisan” stimulus legislation.
McConnell said Thursday the package Pelosi introduced earlier this week didn’t not meet that standard, calling it “an ideological wish list” on the Senate floor.
But he signaled in a statement Saturday that Senate passage of the final bill was likely. “Of course, senators will need to carefully review the version just passed by the House. But I believe the vast majority of ssenators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses,” McConnell said.
In a letter sent Thursday to members of the House, Pelosi urged quick congressional action as schools and businesses shut down and shifted online to slow the spread of the virus.
“Time is of the essence,” she wrote. “During this time of crisis, the strong and steady leadership of our members working together is urgently needed.”
Trump signed an $8.3 billion spending package last week to combat the virus, with Michigan already getting the $14.6 billion allocated for the state in the bill.
Pelosi said the House is poised to take up a third emergency response bill soon. Also last week, U.S. House lawmakers rebuffed a Trump administration request to cut funding for the CDC amid the coronavirus crisis.
Advance Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender contributed to this story.