WASHINGTON D.C. — The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan legislative package in response to the spread of coronavirus in the early hours of Saturday morning following intense negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration.
The bill passed with broad, bipartisan support and a final tally of 363-40, with 40 Republicans voting against it and Independent Justin Amash of Michigan voting “present.”
Late in the day on Friday, President Trump Donald tweeted his support for the measure that includes provisions for paid emergency leave and free testing for COVID-19 after Pelosi announced that Democrats had struck a deal with the administration.
Trump’s backing cleared the way for a broad, bipartisan vote in the House with the Senate expected to take up the measure when it returns to session next week.
“I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, which will be voted on in the House this evening,” the President said in a series of tweets. “This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers. I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt. I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!”
The announcement from the President put an end to uncertainty that had loomed over negotiations all day.
In a letter to House Democrats on Friday evening ahead of the President’s tweets, Pelosi announced a deal, saying, “We are proud to have reached an agreement with the Administration to resolve outstanding challenges.”
Despite the announcement of an agreement, however, the White House and Pelosi’s office were still sorting out issues into Friday evening with the legislative language, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
Pelosi said in her letter that the legislation is made up of a number of provisions, including “free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured.”
The legislation will provide, according to Pelosi, “paid emergency leave with two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave.” It will also expand federal funding for Medicaid “to support our local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems, so that they have the resources necessary to combat this crisis.”
The bill has an exemption for businesses with 500 employees or more. The compromise was a necessary one, a Democratic source familiar with the negotiations told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“Democrats preferred to have something rather than nothing. That was the choice we faced,”the source said. “Republicans didn’t support the mandate nor did they support leave for everyone. It was a clear nonstarter for them. Secretary Mnuchin and Republicans refused to consider any leave policies whatsoever without a cap.
“Obviously, there is a Republican Senate and a Republican President,” the source said. “Support of both are required to make law.”
House Democrats had been planning to vote Friday on a coronavirus relief measure with or without bipartisan support amid uncertainty over when exactly the vote will happen and whether the Trump administration will ultimately get behind the bill.
Trump earlier criticized the legislative package during a news conference on Friday afternoon from the White House even as Pelosi and Mnuchin continued to negotiate.
In remarks delivered from the US Capitol roughly an hour before the President publicly expressed his dissatisfaction, Pelosi insisted that the House of Representatives will move to pass the legislation, saying definitively, “Today, we are passing a bill.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer echoed that priority in a letter to House Democrats saying that the House would vote on a relief bill one way or another.
“The speaker has literally been working around the clock to achieve a bipartisan agreement on our further response to the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic,” the Maryland Democrat said. “If we reach agreement, we’ll vote on it. If not, we will vote today on our bill, which incorporates nearly all of what the Administration and Republicans have requested.”
The House has been gearing up for a vote after top negotiators spent the past day in discussions over how to reach a consensus agreement between House Democrats and the Trump administration.
The concern over coronavirus has scrambled leaders to try and pass a comprehensive package that would address paid sick leave and expand the social safety net for vulnerable children and families whose lives may be disrupted by the virus.
The effort comes as concern and anxiety mounts over the rapid spread of coronavirus across the United States — a development that has jolted the financial markets.
Congress passed an $8.3 billion total coronavirus response package last week, but there is a strong sense among lawmakers that more needed to be done to respond to the economic fallout from the spread of the virus.
On Saturday morning, Trump praised the effort in a tweet, saying that “people really pulled together” to advance the legislation.
“Good teamwork between Republicans & Democrats as the House passes the big CoronaVirus Relief Bill. People really pulled together. Nice to see!” he wrote.