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House Members Get a Virus Voting Protocol Memo: Congress Update

March 26, 2020, 8:54 PM

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is under pressure to win quick House passage of the historic $2 trillion coronavirus economic and health rescue package. The Senate approved the bill 96-0 after intense negotiations among Republicans, Democrats and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Here are the latest developments:

House Members Get a Virus Voting Protocol Memo (4:17 p.m.)

The House sergeant at arms sent members a list of precautionary measures and rules they should observe if they have to be present in the Capitol building to vote on Friday. The instructions include avoiding riding in elevators together and using hand sanitizer before entering and departing the chamber.

House leaders say they’d like to pass the Senate bill swiftly with a voice vote, which would not require members to be on the House floor. But any lawmaker could block that process and demand a recorded vote.

For members who are present in the Capitol, Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving recommends that members of the 435-seat chamber arrive to vote in staggered, 30-member groups, organized alphabetically.

The memo states that during debate on the bill, access to the House floor will be limited to those who are scheduled to speak. Unless participating in the debate, the lawmakers are encouraged to “refrain from grouping” and to remain in their offices until the voting begins.

Additionally, C-Span announced Thursday that in response to a request by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer it would air pre-recorded videos by lawmakers explaining their positions on the stimulus bill. The videos will air in prime time next week, the network said.

Pelosi Has ‘No Doubts’ of Quick House Approval (12:05 p.m.)

Pelosi said in an interview on Bloomberg TV that she has “no doubts whatsoever” that the stimulus bill will pass the House Friday and that the vote should be finished by noon after a “lively” debate.

“We’ll have a strong bipartisan vote and hopefully by noon we’ll be finished; that will only depend on how carefully we have to come in, in small numbers to the floor of the House to vote,” Pelosi said.

She said she hopes the next round of legislation will include funding for infrastructure, in addition to more money for state and local governments.

To speed up the loans to small businesses that are provided in this week’s legislation, Pelosi said she spoke with Mnuchin and that banks will carry out the lending with the supervision of the Small Business Administration.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy also predicted bipartisan support for the coronavirus measure on Friday.

“We will have a debate and a voice vote. I don’t think there will be a need for anything else,” he said.

More Needed in Next Response Plan, Pelosi Says (11:31 a.m.)

Pelosi said there are more needs to be met in the next phase of coronavirus bills, beyond what was addressed in the first three packages.

“We’re still going to need to have more money for state and local governments,” Pelosi said.

She said there needs to be a broader definition of who qualifies for family and medical leave, stronger occupational safety and health protections, pension protection, and increases in food stamps and payments to the poor.

In addition, she said, “we need an endless number of ventilators” for coronavirus patients. Another thing “we have to insist upon” is follow-up treatment for those who test positive for the virus, without a copay.

Pelosi Predicts House Will Clear Stimulus (11:05 a.m.)

Pelosi predicted the House will act swiftly Friday to give final approval to the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue plan and send the measure to President Donald Trump.

“I feel certain that we will have a strong bipartisan vote,” Pelosi -- who turns 80 on Thursday -- told reporters at the Capitol.

Some members of Pelosi’s own Democratic caucus and some House Republicans have raised concerns about aspects of the massive package of loans, tax breaks and other economic stimulus benefits to corporations and individuals.

The legislation was approved by the Senate on a 96-0 vote just before midnight Wednesday. The House plans a voice vote Friday morning, which will allow passage without most House members having to travel to Washington, although anyone who opposes the measure can show up and vote against it.

Pelosi said earlier this week that if for some reason an in-person vote is needed, the House could allow some members to vote by proxy.

Catch Up on Washington’s Virus Response

  • Winners and Losers in Congress’s $2 Trillion Virus Rescue Plan
  • Democrats Win Stimulus Oversight, Fearing Repeat of TARP Waste
  • House Faces Urgency to Act on Senate’s $2 Trillion Virus Rescue

--With assistance from Erik Wasson.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net

Anna Edgerton, Wendy Benjaminson

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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