Trump Signs $2 Trillion Virus Bill After House Shuts Down Objection

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump on Friday signed a $2 trillion response to the novel coronavirus that will deliver checks to most Americans as well as hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses and large companies.

“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families workers and businesses,” Trump said at a 5 p.m. signing ceremony for the legislation. “And that’s what this is all about.”

The package cleared the House unanimously on Friday afternoon, roughly a week after Senate Republicans first introduced the historic package. Since its introduction, the bill has ballooned to more than $2 trillion and went through rounds of revisions after Republicans opened up negotiations with Democrats over the weekend.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California arrives Friday to Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

At the core of the package is the delivery of $1,200 checks to most U.S. adults and $500 for children, as well as a roughly $500 billion fund for industries and states, and an additional $350 billion in loans to help small businesses meet payroll during state-ordered closures.

Small businesses will have their loans forgiven if they use the money to support payroll and meet certain expenses like rent and utility payments.

The legislation also expands unemployment insurance, allowing more people to claim it and increasing the payment by $600 per week.

Under the bill, the Department of Health and Human Services will send $100 billion to hospitals and health care providers, while state governments will receive $150 billion as they respond to the outbreak.

“This legislation represents a bipartisan resolve to meet the coronavirus challenge head on,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Friday on the House floor. “It represents a focus on families and workers, with the objective of making them safer and economically supported. It will protect workers and their families in our economy as we all do our part to flatten the curve.”

The loans and other support in the industry fund come with certain conditions demanded by Democrats, including a ban against companies undertaking stock buybacks during the life of the assistance and for one year after. The bill specifically includes money for airlines, which are near collapse as the outbreak has shut down most travel.

The measure passed the Senate late Wednesday, and House leadership had hoped to unanimously clear the legislation without members needing to return to Washington to vote. Representative Thomas Massie, R-Ky., threw off the plan by threatening to object to passing it in that way, sending lawmakers scrambling back to the Capitol to vote.

A libertarian-leaning Republican, Massie raised issues both with the process that crafted the bill and to its expansion of government spending.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in 2019 after blocking a unanimous consent vote on a long-awaited hurricane disaster-aid bill in the chamber. (AP File Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Massie’s maneuver drew widespread rebuke, including from Trump himself, who tweeted that Massie was a “third rate grandstander” who should be jettisoned from the party.

“He just wants the publicity,” Trump wrote Friday morning. “He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous and costly.”

As the House prepared a vote Friday, Massie demanded a roll call but not enough members seconded his motion, and the measure cleared by voice vote. Lawmakers still needed to come to the House chamber on Friday afternoon to ensure the body had a quorum to conduct businesses.

Members cheered and applauded in the chamber after the bill passed.

Based on guidance from the House sergeant at arms and attending physician, the House had put together a plan to bring social distancing to the normally crowded House floor, including stretching out the vote as members vote in 15 groups of 30 in alphabetical order based on last name.

Massie was not alone in expressing dissatisfaction with the bill, as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York City, called the $500 billion industry fund a massive corporate bailout in a bill that gives only “crumbs” to families.

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