House rushes to reconvene for $2tn stimulus vote

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On Friday morning, the United States House of Representatives rushed to meet again for a vote on a historic $ 2.2 billion stimulus package intended to support a US economy crippled by the spread of the coronavirus.

Legislators will debate the measure for three hours before a vote in the assembly. Package includes one-off helicopter cash checks of up to $ 1,200 for individuals, an additional $ 600 a week in unemployment insurance for those who are not working, and a $ 450 billion bailout fund for workers businesses, states and cities of the United States, among other provisions.

The bill, which passed the Republican-controlled Senate in a 96-0 vote earlier this week, is expected to be approved by the Democratic-controlled House before being sent to President Donald Trump for promulgation.

But voting in the House can be complicated. A handful of lawmakers have threatened to oppose the bill or force a roll-call vote, which would force every member of Congress to appear on the floor of the House to vote. Before Friday, the House had been on hiatus for almost two weeks amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, originally planned to pass the bill by “unanimous consent”, allowing quick approval as long as no member opposes it. Such a move would have prevented legislators from rushing to Washington.

Two members of the House – Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat, and Mario Díaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida – tested positive for Covid-19, while others self-isolated on the advice of their doctor.

Many were also concerned that the US Capitol, where legislators and staff spend long hours in tight quarters, could be a hot spot for the spread of the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many legislators in the House and in the Senate are over the age of 65, which puts them at higher risk for serious illness.

On Thursday, after lawmakers on both sides raised concerns with the bailout bill, Pelosi said a “voice vote”, where members would shout “yes” or “no”, would allow politicians to record their dissatisfaction without forcing the 435 members of the House to return to Washington.

But Steny Hoyer, the leader of the Democratic majority in the House, informed the deputies Thursday evening “that it is possible that this measure is not voted”, after Thomas Massie, a republican of Kentucky, declared that he would vote against the bill and suggested that it might require a “roll call”, which requires a quorum of members of the House to be in the room.

Hoyer said members should “follow the advice of their state and local health officials” and return to Washington “cautiously” if they were “capable and willing.”

Democrats and Republicans expressed disapproval by rushing to return to Washington.

“Because of a congressman’s refusal to authorize emergency action, all of Congress must be called back to vote in the House,” Republican congressman Peter King of New York said on Twitter. “Risk of infection and risk of delay in legislation. Shameful. Irresponsible.”

Trump also spoke, calling Massie “third class” and suggesting he be “kicked out” of the Republican party.

“He just wants publicity,” Trump said on Twitter Friday morning. “He cannot stop it, only delay it, which is both dangerous and costly. Workers and small businesses now need money to survive. “

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