On Monday, the House of Representatives will have to vote on a revised version of the coronavirus relief package that passed early Saturday morning, after “technical changes” were hastily added to the bill, Roll Call reported.
After hours of negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act sailed through congress with a vote of 363-40-1. Democratic legislators voted in lock-step for the bill while 40 Republicans voted against, bucking President’s Trump’s stated support for the emergency relief package. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) cast the abstaining vote. The revisions didn’t make to the version of the bill the House voted on, so a do-over has been planned for Monday morning.
Almost all of the 40 House Republicans who voted against the Families First package, voted for the $8.3 billion coronavirus spending bill last week. But these same conservatives are ringing alarm bells over the multi-billion dollar Families First legislation “boondoggle.”
The bill, which was rushed through congress without going through the necessary committees, includes provisions for two weeks of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers affected by the virus. Companies with 500 or more employees are exempted from the bill’s paid emergency leave requirements. Small and mid-sized businesses will apparently be given a tax credit to pay for the benefits.
The bill also provides additional funding for state Medicaid programs, $1 billion in food aid, extended unemployment benefits, and free coronavirus testing for patients without insurance.
The “technical change” allows small businesses, unhappy with the bill, time to lobby for additional changes when the measure reaches the Senate,” according to Roll Call.
The influential National Federation of Independent Business said it may consider the matter a “key vote” on its legislative scorecard, a gauge of how worthy congressional candidates are of support in the upcoming elections.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged the concerns small businesses had with the legislation and hedged on whether it could pass the Senate in its current form.
“We are hearing feedback that certain small businesses are very concerned about the burden of this,” Mnuchin said Sunday, adding he’s been in contact with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other senators.
“I’m speaking to senators, I don’t want to predict, OK, I think there’s a lot of bipartisan support, I hope they pass this bill,” the Treasury chief said. “If not we’ll work with the Senate on whatever minor changes we need.”
It wasn’t immediately clear exactly what changes were needed that didn’t make it into the bill during frenzied late-night bargaining and drafting on Friday. But the paid leave issue continued to vex lawmakers and ultimately 40 House Republicans, or roughly one-fifth of the GOP conference, voted “no” on the measure.
Mnuchin described the needed change as “a technical correction” that had been agreed to by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., before the measure passed the House, 363-40.
The Treasury chief told reporters Saturday that the revised bill would come to the House floor Monday morning, though with the chamber on recess any changes would have to be made by unanimous consent. A Democratic aide who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly confirmed that the change would be made by unanimous consent, but the timing was still up in the air.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) was one of the Republicans who voted against the emergency relief package. In a statement Saturday, Gohmert complained that the bill was rushed through before anyone had had a chance to read it and before it had gone through the proper committees.
House Rules would have required that the bill go through the Appropriations Committee, Ways & Means Committee then to the Rules Committee for examination by the Members of the Committees of Jurisdiction, holding hearings by each with an opportunity to amend mistakes. However, this is a crisis so some rules may have needed to be bypassed. We had already appropriated the billions of dollars needed to cover vaccines, medications, and medical care last week, so this was to address economic damages from the Coronavirus. The President has access to around $50 billion by virtue of his “National Emergency” declaration. I did not understand why we had to shove this through in the wee hours of a Friday night/Saturday morning when the Senate won’t even return to start looking at this until Monday.
Gohmert said he was proud of how the president had called Pelosi’s bluff when she demanded a vote on Thursday because she would not be there on Friday.
Then she said she would not be here on Saturday so we had to vote right away to pass a bill before we knew what was in it. But with this bill, President Trump made clear that he did not want to destroy small businesses in our effort to help those who could not help themselves in this crisis.
As the bill kept changing, we were having trouble getting copies of the latest version. I was reading the version I got around 9 pm Friday or shortly thereafter. I had noted some concerns in that version that might do more harm than good. The Rules Committee that has to vote on the rules to bring the final bill to the floor had to recess to await the language of that final bill. But they never got the bill or had a hearing on it.
Gohmert explained that the final text of the bill was publicly released at approximately 11:57 pm and there was no time for lawmakers to carefully review it.
He said the later bill was 110 pages, while the 9:00 pm version was 108 pages. “I did not even have time to do a side-by-side to see what was different,” he complained.
Shortly before 1:00 a.m., following passage of the bill, Gohmert called the rushed vote “sad” on the House floor.
“My questions and concerns that I couldn’t get answered are going to put some people out of business,” he exclaimed. “This is no way to handle billions and billions of dollars when we’re trying to help people and we don’t even know if we’re going to help them or hurt them,” he said.
Five other Texas Republicans voted against the coronavirus relief package: Reps. Chip Roy, Lance Gooden, Brian Babin, Michael Cloud, and Randy Weber.
Gooden said he voted no because lawmakers were “given only a few minutes to read a bill at midnight.”
“I don’t wish to disparage any House members as they hail this bill as a positive step forward,” he said in a statement. “I’m not here to rubber-stamp Nancy Pelosi or anyone else’s work without proper vetting.”
Roy called it “welfare” that would do “more harm than good” and complained that it was rushed through with no time to debate it.
“I voted no because this bill will cause more harm for more Americans than the good it purports to offer,” Roy tweeted early Saturday. “We were given a take-it-or-leave it bill with zero chance to amend it or debate it. … Despite it being well-intentioned, it puts onerous burdens and mandates on main street employers, while picking winners and losers by carving out big business!”
The congressman later railed against the legislation, calling it “a terrible mistake” in a 16-part tweet-storm Sunday night, (condensed below for easier reading):
“Early Saturday morning I voted against legislation we had no time to debate, amend, or even read. That bill was badly flawed. It purports to help people by putting a massive mandate on small & medium sized businesses while perpetuating the K-Street.”
“Corporate welfare cronyism Americans are sick of – exempting businesses over 500. Worse yet, the mandate was to be paid LATER through tax credits, and the tax credits would not cover it all!”
“This was a terrible mistake, and the Senate (or the House, in its “technical corrections” it is hurrying to the floor to clean up its mess) ought to correct it. Small business owners have reached out to me to ask what we can do to help stop this so they won’t be hurt.”
“In short, it does no good to mandate ‘paid leave’ from a job that doesn’t exist because the business went under. To solve that problem, I suggest – & would have on Friday, had we had any chance to amend – offering very expansive and immediate small business loans, & other measures to keep businesses afloat through the negative impacts of government calls to stay home.”
“Due to the action and recommendation of government leaders of all levels, we are facing massive slowdown for restaurants, retail, the arts, travel, hotels, and more. It is fully and wholly unsustainable for most.”
“Therefore, we have a duty to find ways to inject capital and help them stay afloat – and tie any temporary sick leave requirement to the choice of the business to take the loan rather than through the force of penalty.”
“We should get busy using tax relief – be it with deferring tax filing or quarterly payments, payroll taxes, or otherwise – to provide immediately relief. And for the unfortunate folks who, starting this week, are likely getting laid off due directly to government action, particularly in the service industry – we are going to have to find ways besides taxes to provide additional relief.”
“It’s not clear the Unemployment Insurance relief in the House bill will sufficiently or effectively deal with the magnitude of the impact on service industry workers.”
“Our goals should be simple – 1) ensure we get on top of testing, supply chain problems, & our ability to respond to the virus nationwide, 2) ensure ample liquidity and capital for businesses being hammered by both the virus &, much more, our response to it to survive & 3) ensure relief for American citizens also getting hammered because, frankly, they will be laid off due directly to government calls for folks to sequester themselves.”
“To be clear – our biggest imperative is that we get through this quickly and keep businesses going – through a multi-faceted approach. Besides loans for liquidity… it’s important that we encourage creative thinking in both commerce and charity – for example, encouraging Americans to buy gift cards for food, offering double or triple tipping, &/or encourage modified approaches to “eating out” by ramping up more delivery and pick up options.”
“It’s already happening in the private sector, but we should find ways to expand it and encourage it through de-regulation such as what Governor Abbott is already doing in Texas (e.g. transportation & trucking), or perhaps empty hotels can be used to deal with some of our possible healthcare needs.”
“We should encourage a mix of government support combined with charity – perhaps a service workers relief fund – to support those losing work (in part of full), or having to care for children or loved ones.”
“We are facing an historic challenge, and we will adapt and rise to it. But it will not be without significant hardship. Government can and should act – but it cannot do so with the recklessness that Pelosi & Mnuchin did late last week by rushing the legislation to a vote. It harms Americans more than helps by picking winners & losers and turning legislation being sold as “help” to Americans into crony corporate welfare.”
“Rather, we need to act decisively & swiftly to get our healthcare solution while keeping the wheels of commerce moving as much as possible and then back to full speed in a very short period of time. This is how we beat the corona virus. #BeatCoronaVirus.”
Colorado Republican Ken Buck accused Pelosi of larding the bill up with liberal “wishlist items.”
“Nancy Pelosi squandered days trying to push wishlist items on us rather than engaging in a meaningful bipartisan discussion,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) tweeted. “This bill is a 110-page, multi-billion dollar boondoggle shoved on us at the stroke of midnight.”
Nancy Pelosi squandered days trying to push wishlist items on us rather than engaging in a meaningful bipartisan discussion. This bill is a 110-page, multi-billion dollar boondoggle shoved on us at the stroke of midnight.
— Congressman Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) March 14, 2020
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has already voiced opposition to the paid leave requirement in the House bill. “I hope the Senate will approach this with a level head and pass a bill that does more good than harm — or, if it won’t, pass nothing at all,” he said in a statement.
Mnuchin told reporters late Saturday that Treasury will provide “regulatory flexibility to get small businesses the cash they need.”