WASHINGTON — Congress gave final approval Friday to the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, a $2 trillion measure designed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses battered by the crisis.
The House approved the measure by voice vote, after leaders in both parties deflected an effort by Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican with a penchant for using procedural maneuvers to try to block legislation, to force recorded vote requiring lawmakers to register their positions individually. It now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.
The legislation would send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It would substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, and would extend the payments for the first time to freelancers and gig workers.
The measure would also offer $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the impact of the crisis, including allowing the administration the ability to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It would also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic.
House leaders had scheduled a voice vote on the measure to reduce the number of lawmakers who would be forced to return to Washington in the midst of a pandemic to pass it. Massie, a member of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus who denounced the bill as a big-spending giveaway to banks and corporations, sought to block that effort by calling for a recorded vote.
“Mr. Speaker, I came here to make sure our Republic doesn’t die by unanimous request in an empty chamber and request a recorded vote,” he said.
But Republican and Democratic leaders called back members from all corners of the country to form a quorum, and they made a show of force in the House chamber, putting down Massie’s bid to slow the measure’s passage.
As debate came to a close, lawmakers began filing onto the House floor and into the galleries above, which are typically reserved for the public and have been closed in recent days to stem the spread of COVID-19.
As she spoke in favor of the bill at the close of the debate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi prodded all members who were present to assemble.
“The sooner you come,” she said, “the shorter my remarks will be.”
With at least 216 lawmakers present in the House chamber, Massie’s attempts failed and the bill cleared the chamber as lawmakers loudly registered their assent. Massie and a handful of others shouted, “no!” just before the gavel fell.
Then the chamber erupted into applause.