President Trump on Friday signed a more than $2 trillion legislative package to combat the coronavirus pandemic and send economic relief to workers and businesses squeezed by restrictions meant to stop the outbreak’s spread after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the legislation earlier in the day.
“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said during an afternoon Oval Office signing ceremony.
Trump marveled at the magnitude of the aid package as he penned his name on the legislation: “I’ve never signed anything with a ‘T’ on it,” Trump quipped of the trillions of dollars of new spending.
The legislation, approved by voice vote despite 11th-hour drama arising from a GOP lawmaker’s objections, amounts to the costliest stimulus plan in U.S. history. It includes checks for most Americans, boosted unemployment aid, help for small business as well as a massive loan fund for corporations – at a time when unemployment is surging at a record pace, a consequence of businesses closing in compliance with social distancing guidelines.
“This bill is not only a rescue package, it is a commitment…that your government and the people whom you elected to serve will do everything we can to limit the harm and hardship you face, both now and in the foreseeable future,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said prior to the vote. “To the American public: If you do your part, I promise we will do ours.”
The approval, while widely anticipated, followed a stretch of uncertainty over whether one congressman — concerned about the stunning cost of the package — might be able to stall the vote.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., had furiously objected to a simple voice vote that would have required only a minimal number of lawmakers to travel. Massie, as part of his push, wanted to ensure there is a quorum, which would require half of the members to show up on Capitol Hill.
So as President Trump and others accused him of grandstanding, hundreds of lawmakers were summoned to Washington D.C. Thursday night and Friday morning from coronavirus-ravaged communities in New York, California and elsewhere. This, despite strict guidelines from the Capitol physician advising lawmakers not to congregate at the Capitol and to stay in their offices until needed to avoid the spread of the virus that has already infected several lawmakers.
“Massie has now become the most hated person on Capitol Hill,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who left his home at 4:30 a.m. to drive to the Capitol to ensure the measure got passed Friday.
While Massie was able to ensure many lawmakers showed up for the vote, he was not, in the end, able to force a roll-call.
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