House approves historic coronavirus package, sending $2 trillion bill to Trump’s desk – live updates

WASHINGTON – The House voted to pass a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package – the largest emergency aid bill in history – that will offer $1,200 checks to Americans, extensive unemployment benefits for those out of work and financial relief to businesses and the health care industry hard-hit by the worsening crisis.

The House’s vote allows the bill to head to President Donald Trump’s desk for final approval. Trump has signaled he will sign the bill.

The vote comes one day after the U.S. reached two grim milestones, becoming the country with the most coronavirus cases in the world and reporting a record 3.28 million workers who applied for unemployment benefits in one week – the highest number in history since the Department of Labor started tracking data in 1967. The massive package aims to offer a financial lifeline to Americans and businesses that are hurting while also offering reassurance to the markets, which have been battered by fears that shutdowns related to the pandemic could throw the economy into a deep recession.

So far, COVID-19 has killed nearly 1,300 people in the U.S. and infected about 86,000. Efforts to mitigate its spread has left businesses closed and many Americans out of work.

Among the provisions in the measure are $1,200 checks to individuals, strengthened unemployment benefits that will offer workers an additional $600 weekly for four months, $367 billion in loans and grants to small businesses, over $130 billion for hospitals and community health centers and financial help to airlines and other industries affected by the virus.

The measure was passed despite some last-minute drama that sent House lawmakers into a frantic rush to get back to D.C. over worries Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky, would call for a recorded vote on the measure. Massie did request a recorded vote, which requires a majority of lawmakers be present at the Capitol, but it did not receive a second in order to enforce it. 

– Christal Hayes

Third House member tests positive for coronavirus

Shortly after the House of Representatives passed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., announced a positive test for the coronavirus. 

“While I otherwise feel fine, since March 17th I have been unable to smell or taste, which I learned this week is a potential symptom of COVID-19,” he said. Cunningham said he was tested on Thursday after a remote consultation with a physician and received a positive result today. 

“While my symptoms have begun to improve, I will remain at home until I know it is safe to leave self-quarantine,” Cunningham said in a statement, adding that he would continue to work remotely. 

Cunningham said he had been in self-quarantine since March 19 after coming into contact with another member of Congress who tested positive. 

The South Carolina Democrat is the third member of the House of Representatives to test positive for the coronavirus along with Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also tested positive.

– Nicholas Wu 

Trump urges GM, Ford to make ventilators

President Donald Trump urged automakers General Motors and Ford to begin manufacturing ventilators, critical medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients, and mentioned invoking the Defense Production Act to compel those companies to begin mass production.

“General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS NOW!!!!!!” he tweeted. “FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”

The president tweeted “Invoke ‘P'” which he clarified in a later tweet meant the Defense Production Act, a wartime authority that allows him to direct companies to speed the production of medical equipment including ventilators, masks and other supplies to help health care workers treat coronavirus patients.

While he mentioned his authority to invoke the DPA, Trump did not make clear whether he was going to use the act to compel the companies to make ventilators or whether he was just raising the threat to do so.

Trump appeared to be responding to a New York Times report that found the White House stopped short of approving a $1 billion dollar deal with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to produce up to 80,000 of the much-needed ventilators after government officials said they needed more time to weigh the price tag, according to the newspaper.

The president has faced mounting criticism from state and local officials for not formally enforcing the DPA to compel companies to expedite the production of medical supplies amid a widespread shortage of equipment across the country. 

“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly.’ Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar,” Trump tweeted.

– Courtney Subramanian

House expected to have enough members to hold recorded vote on stimulus bill

The House is expected to have enough members present to vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package Friday, according to a leadership aide.

That’s important because frustrated House members rushed back to D.C. Friday so the House would have the majority present to hold a recorded vote that Rep. Thomas Massie plans to request. 

Massie, R-Ky., angered both parties, as well as President Donald Trump, by asking for the recorded vote, which requires at least a majority be present in the House to record their votes. 

The House had planned to approve the measure by voice vote, meaning it would pass with present members calling out either “aye” or “nay,” a method that did not require a majority. Leaders wanted lawmakers to stay home due to concerns that having them travel could further spread the virus within Congress. Already, two House lawmakers have tested positive for the virus and more than two dozen have gone into quarantine over the last several weeks.

House Democrats and Republicans worked together throughout Friday to tally the votes to get to the magic number – 216 – to hold a recorded vote. 

Massie explained his rationale in a series of tweets.

“The Constitution requires that a quorum of members be present to conduct business in the House. Right now, millions of essential, working-class Americans are still required to go to work during this pandemic such as manufacturing line workers, healthcare professionals, pilots, grocery clerks, cooks/chefs, delivery drivers, auto mechanics, and janitors (to name just a few). Is it too much to ask that the House do its job, just like the Senate did?”

– Christal Hayes

‘Disaster for America’: Trump lashes out at Massie

President Donald Trump lashed out at Rep. Thomas Massie as a “grandstander” and “disaster for America” who should be thrown out of the GOP for the Kentucky Republican’s opposition to a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package expected to pass in the House Friday.

“Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately a truly GREAT state, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress,” Trump tweeted Friday morning. 

“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous…& costly,” Trump added. 

The president said it has been “HELL” working with Democrats to negotiate the bill, conceding that he “had to give up some stupid things in order to get the ‘big picture done.'” 

After calling on the GOP to retake the House in November, Trump added, “but throw Massie out of the Republican Party!”

In a followup tweet, Trump said Massie was “empowering the Radical Left Democrats” and declared: “He is a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky!” 

Massie has also threatened to request lawmakers vote in person on the bill, forcing House lawmakers to rush back to Washington Friday in order to have enough lawmakers present to vote on the measure. 

The House had planned to approve the package while keeping its hundreds of members home over concerns about further spreading the virus. Two House lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Members were planning to use a voice vote in which those present in the House would call out either “aye” or ‘nay.” Such a method doesn’t require a majority to be present.  But if even just one member requests a recorded vote, which Massie has threatened to do, it would require more than half of House members to be present on the floor to cast votes in person on the measure. 

Several lawmakers lambasted Massie for forcing them back to Washington. But at least one, Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, defended Massie and told Trump to “back off.”

“@RepThomasMassie is one of the most principled men in Congress & loves his country. He is defending the Constitution today by requiring a quorum. There’s nothing 3rd rate about that,@realDonaldTrump,” Roy tweeted. “I may miss vote if he forces roll call (flights) but it will pass. Back off.”

– Courtney Subramanian

NYC lawmakers travel to DC to vote despite White House guidance

Several members of Congress from New York City are traveling to Washington, D.C., Friday to vote on the coronavirus stimulus package despite White House guidance for New Yorkers to self-quarantine

Earlier this week at a coronavirus task force press briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx advised people from New York to self-quarantine for 14 days after leaving the city to avoid spreading the virus. 

In spite of this guidance, several members representing parts of New York City were spotted on the House floor or traveled to Washington to vote. 

“I flew in this AM and most N.Y. members are here so no one really talking about it,” Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., told USA TODAY in a text. Meng posted a photo from a mostly empty flight earlier in the morning as she flew in from her Queens-area district.

Stimulus check calculator:Calculate how much money you could get

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., who represents parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, gave a short speech on the House floor calling for the stimulus bill’s package. 

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., whose district includes Brooklyn and Queens, posted a picture from his House office as he waited to vote.

House leaders asked lawmakers to quickly return to Washington over fears an in-person vote would be needed to move the bill to President Donald Trump for final approval.

– Nicholas Wu

House begins debate on coronavirus package

The House of Representatives began what could be up to three hours of debate on a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill Friday morning. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said they would be holding an “unusual but critical session” as the House members took their own steps to avoid the virus.

Members of the House were advised to keep at least six feet of distance from each other, and to sanitize their hands as they walked on and off of the House floor. Hand sanitizer dispensers were placed at the entrances of the House floor for members’ use. 

“No one will agree with every part of this rescue bill, but we face a challenge rarely seen in America’s history. We must act now or the toll on lives and livelihoods will be far greater,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. 

– Nicholas Wu 

Frustrated lawmakers rush back to D.C. to vote on coronavirus package

Frustrated and angry House lawmakers are rushing back to Washington, taking red-eye flights and driving for hours after one member suggested he would require an in-person vote on a historic $2 trillion bill to help Americans and businesses reeling from the impacts of coronavirus.

The House plans to vote on the package by voice vote, meaning it would pass with members calling out either “aye” or “nay,” but the procedure allows for any one lawmaker to ask for a recorded vote. If any lawmaker asks for one, it would require more than half of House members to be present on the House floor to cast votes in person on the legislation.

The House hoped to approve the package while keeping its hundreds of members home due to concerns about further spreading the virus. Already, two House lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Trump on N.Y. ventilator request:‘I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”

But several lawmakers have voiced some opposition to the bill and allowing it to sail through without a full vote. One in particular, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., has specifically threatened to ask for a recorded vote.

The threat caused leadership to ask that members quickly return to Washington, leading to a frantic rush to find flights or drive up to D.C. Several lawmakers took to Twitter and posted selfies from red-eye flights and their cars with some publicly airing their frustration and anger toward Massie.

“We’re headed back to D.C. this morning to vote on the third coronavirus relief package. We know this has to get done as quickly as possible,” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn., said in a Twitter video. “I’m really disappointed that there’s some members threatening to tank the bill on the floor, so we all got a call last night that we should head back as quickly as possible.”

One of Massie’s fellow Republicans was more blunt. Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., called it “disgraceful” and “irresponsible.”

“Heading to Washington to vote on pandemic legislation. Because of one Member of Congress refusing to allow emergency action entire Congress must be called back to vote in House,” he wrote on Twitter. “Risk of infection and risk of legislation being delayed.”

– Christal Hayes

Michigan responds to Trump after Hannity interview

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer responded to President Donald Trump after the president seemed to forget the Democrat’s name while discussing the coronavirus response.

Trump couldn’t recall Whitmer’s name during an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News on Thursday: “We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor from, you know who I’m talking about, from Michigan.”

Trump, who has also clashed with the governors of New York, Illinois, and Washington, among others, said Michigan’s state executive is “not stepping up. I don’t know if she knows what’s going on. But all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.”

Whitmer responded later Thursday.

“Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me,” Whitmer tweeted at the president. “I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits.”

She added: “You said you stand with Michigan — prove it.”

Trump also said he loves the people of Michigan and “Michigan is a very important state.”

In her response, to the president, Whitmer did strike a positive note as it relates to Vice President Mike Pence.

“PS: I’m happy to work with the VP!” Whitmer tweeted. “We get along well.”

– David Jackson

Trump and China president discuss coronavirus

China President Xi Jinping, angry that President Donald Trump has used the phrase “China virus” to describe the coronavirus pandemic, urged Trump to do more to improve relations between the world’s biggest trading partners, Chinese state media reported Friday.

In an overnight phone call, Xi told Trump he hoped the United States “will take substantive actions to improve” relations between the two countries, reported China state broadcaster CCTV.

Xi also said that China wants to “continue sharing all information and experience with the U.S.” to fight the global spread of coronavirus, CCTV.

Trump, who has said he uses the term “China virus” because that is where the coronavirus started, put a positive spin on the phone call with Xi, describing it as “a very good conversation.”

“Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet,” Trump tweeted. “China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!”

– David Jackson

House expected to pass $2 trillion stimulus package

The House of Representatives is set to pass a massive $2 trillion stimulus package Friday to combat the coronavirus.

The measure will send direct payments to individuals and families, and aid businesses and industries. 

As more lawmakers have self-quarantined and as three lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus, House Democratic and Republican leaders have said they want this legislation to pass by a voice vote, or an unrecorded vote normally reserved for uncontroversial matters like minting commemorative coins or making technical corrections to laws.  

“Our Members want to come back in order to have the debate, and we expect to have a voice vote on it,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday. “But if we don’t, we’ll be prepared for whatever it is.” 

House members have been advised to keep 6 feet between themselves and staff in their offies and the Capitol, and access to the floor of the House is being limited. 

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., has threatened to oppose a voice vote, which would delay proceedings by forcing lawmakers to hold a recorded vote. 

The bill passed the Senate by a 96-0 vote on Wednesday night following days of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over final provisions. Democrats had asked for more stringent oversight over the funds disbursed to industries affected by the outbreak.

The House is set to reconvene at 9:00 a.m. EDT. 

– Nicholas Wu

Trump questions NY ask for 30,000 ventilators

While pledging cooperation with governors to fight the coronavirus, President Donald Trump is questioning some of their requests for tens of thousands of ventilators needed to treat an expected flood of patients in the coming weeks.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday. “You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes, they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘can we order 30,000 ventilators?'”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he needs 30,000 ventilators “at a minimum” to meet the peak of the outbreak in his state in a couple of weeks. Cuomo also said the federal government has been slow to help provide help.

“The president said it’s a war – it is a war,” Cuomo said. “Well, then, act like it’s a war!”

Citing Cuomo’s request, Trump told Hannity: “Thirty thousand? All right. Think of this. You know, you go to hospitals, they’ll have one in a hospital. And now, all of a sudden everybody’s asking for these vast numbers.”

Trump had a teleconference with governors on Thursday, and called it “a terrific meeting.”

— David Jackson

Poll: Trump’s approval rating rises during coronavirus response

A new poll shows increased support for President Donald Trump amid the response to the spread of coronavirus, including his highest-ever presidential approval rating – 48% to 46% disapproval, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Trump, who has commandeered nationally televised briefings on the coronavirus response for two weeks, has seen his approval rating rise five points in the past month, the poll said.

“That is the highest approval rating of his presidency in Post-ABC surveys and the first time his overall rating is net positive,” the Washington Post reported.

The Post also said that “most Americans say he was too slow to take action in the early days of the virus’s spread” and that the rise in Trump’s approval rating “is far smaller than some other presidents have experienced in times of national crisis.”

As usual, views of Trump fall sharply along party lines – Republicans strongly support him, Democrats strongly oppose him.

His improved approval rating is due to a slight rise in Democratic support since the same poll in February, the Post said: “Then, just 4 percent of Democrats approved of his overall performance, while the new poll shows 17 percent offering a positive rating.”

– David Jackson

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