House Passes Coronavirus Package with White House Support

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Washington.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 

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The House overwhelmingly passed the legislation early Saturday morning, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiated with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The House on Saturday overwhelmingly passed emergency legislation to address some of the economic fallout from the coronavirus and other parts of the crisis.

An agreement on the package came after two days of intense negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and just hours after President Trump derided the package at a news conference. But after Pelosi announced the deal, Trump, too, tweeted his support for the measure. 

Lawmakers voted on the proposal early Saturday morning, approving the package by a 363-40 vote. 

Pelosi said Friday that the negotiated proposal includes provisions to provide free coronavirus testing, establish emergency paid sick leave, increase funding for Medicaid and ensure low-income children will have access to food even when schools are closed. 

“This legislation is about testing, testing, testing,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats. “To stop the spread of the virus, we have secured free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured. We cannot fight coronavirus effectively unless everyone in our country who needs to be tested can get their test free of charge.”

The lack of accessible tests for people exhibiting symptoms of the easily spread respiratory illness has led to pointed critiques of the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak. 

Ahead of Pelosi’s announcement, Trump said he did not support the proposal but did not offer any specific criticisms, saying only that Democrats were not “giving enough” in their negotiations. 

During a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, a designation that can free up billions of dollars to help state and local governments and announced new public-private partnerships meant to make testing more available.

Even as Trump on Friday afternoon said he didn’t support the legislation proposed by Democrats, Pelosi and Mnuchin were continuing discussions over possible compromises. Republicans on Thursday had said they opposed some of the sick leave provisions in Democrats’ initial draft of the proposal.

Of the amended proposal, Pelosi said that in addition to free coronavirus testing for all, the measure would also provide workers affected by the virus with two weeks of paid sick leave, enhance unemployment protections for those who lose their jobs during the outbreak. The measure would also provide money to help feed children who rely on free and reduced-price lunch programs, she said.

But as details emerged over the weekend, it became clear that the paid sick leave provision of the bill will not apply to all workers. Large companies were left out of the bill, while small and midsized companies can apply for exemptions. While 89% of companies with more than 500 employees provide paid sick, it is not necessarily the two weeks envisioned in the bill. 

The Senate, which has already adjourned for the weekend, will take up the measure next week. 

While offering few comments on the House proposal, Trump announced other actions, including agreements with major corporations that he said would make an additional 1.4 million coronavirus tests available within a week. 

As part of Trump’s emergency declaration, the Department of Health and Human Services will be able to waive provisions and give doctors and hospitals more flexibility to respond to the ongoing public health crisis. 

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Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

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