Washington — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote Friday on a massive relief package responding to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, after the Senate unanimously late Wednesday.
The bill, which carries a price tag north of $2 trillion, will likely be approved by a voice vote in the House, which doesn't require the presence of all members, many of whom are currently in their home states. Two House members have tested positive for coronavirus, and about two dozen others have said they are self-quarantining in case they have been exposed.
The relief measure passed with a vote of 96 to 0 in the Senate, after lengthy negotiations between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and White House officials. The bill expands unemployment insurance, provides direct payments to most Americans and includes hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and grants to corporations, hospitals, state and local governments and more. An amendment proposed by three Republicansthe bill's passage, but it failed along party lines.
Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference Thursday that she expected the bill to pass by a voice vote "with strong bipartisan support."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also voiced support for the bill on Thursday, and urged members of his conference to vote to approve it.
In a statement following the Senate vote Wednesday evening, Pelosi praised the finalized version of the bill.
"Tonight, the Senate voted on legislation which, thanks to the leadership of Congressional Democrats, has been turned upside down from a Republican corporate focus to a Democratic workers-first focus," Pelosi said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a letter to colleagues that the lower chamber will pass the measure by a voice vote, meaning that the presiding member will call for "yea" and "nay" votes from members on the floor. Members who wish to debate the legislation on the floor may do so ahead of the vote, and those who are unable to return to Washington may express their views on the bill remotely.
Any member could throw a wrench in those plans by calling for a recorded vote. If that happens, Pelosi said absent members could vote by proxy, meaning that a smaller group of lawmakers would vote on behalf of the whole House. However, Pelosi seemed confident that a proxy vote will not be necessary.
"If somebody calls for a recorded vote, we have options. And then once they know we have options, they probably won't call for it," Pelosi said Wednesday evening.
The speaker said during her press conference Thursday that she was not concerned about the outcome of the vote.
"We will have a victory tomorrow for America's workers," Pelosi said. "If somebody has a different point of view, they can put it in the record."
President Trump has also voiced his support for the measure, and said heonce it is passed in the House.
"96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!" Mr. Trump tweeted early Thursday.
Mr. Trump said during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing Thursday that he believed the measure would have "tremendous support" in the House. He said there may be a "grandstander" who attempts to block the legislation, but he expressed confidence that the bill would pass.
The Senate went into recess until April 20 after voting on Wednesday. If the House changes the Senate measure, senators would have to return to Washington to approve the amended bill.
On Thursday, Pelosi also indicated that the House would work on another round of legislation to address issues not covered in the Senate bill, such as providing free treatment for patients after they receive a coronavirus test and clarifying who qualifies for family leave.
"We'll be taking the lead," Pelosi said about the next round of legislation, saying that negotiations needed to come from "four corners" of Congress — House, Senate, Republicans and Democrats.
The relief package comes amid increasingly dire indications that the coronavirus pandemic is spurring an unprecedented spike in job losses. According to the Department of Labor, a record 3.28 million Americans filed unemployment claims during the week ending March 21, nearly five times the previous weekly record of 695,000 claims in 1982.
"During the week ending March 21, the extraordinary increase in initial claims are due to the impacts of the COVID-19 virus. Nearly every state providing comments cited the COVID-19 virus impacts," the department said Thursday.
The legislation includes direct cash payments of $1,200 to most Americans earning under $75,000 per year, and loans to small businesses and state and local governments. While local businesses will also receive loans, there will be an oversight board and inspector general to oversee these transactions.