Gohmert, citing changes, won’t block coronavirus bill
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) says he will no longer try to block House passage of an emergency coronavirus package, setting the stage for the lower chamber to send the bill to the Senate later Monday night.
Gohmert, a conservative firebrand, had vowed earlier in the day to block the legislation single-handedly, citing what he considered its harmful effects on small businesses.
After speaking with Republican leaders, including a phone call with President Trump, he said he still doesn’t support the package on the whole but is satisfied enough with changes negotiated Monday between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he’ll allow the bill to pass by unanimous consent.
“There are some substantive changes that they’re calling technical changes. Some of them I’d like to see go through. I think they’ll be helpful keeping people in business,” Gohmert told a pair of reporters in the Capitol late Monday evening.
Gohmert said he intended to go to the floor Monday night to voice his criticisms to the bill, but would ultimately withdraw his formal objection to allow the package to move to the Senate.
“Unless Mnuchin changes something else that I’m not expecting, I plan to reserve the right to object, and express my concerns, and then probably withdraw the objection,” he said. “I’ve been here since 10 [a.m.], and there’s been a lot of work done, by a lot of people to try to get this to a [better] place. But let’s face it, like Obama said: ‘elections have consequences.’ They have the majority, so they can get more of what they want in this bill.
“So please understand, withdrawing my objection is not the same as saying I support the bill, because I still don’t,” he added. “It’s just less bad.”
Even as he spoke, Mnuchin was on the other side of the Capitol briefing Senate Republicans on the changes, in hopes of getting them on board.
Some Senate Republicans, bearing echoes of Gohmert, said they’ll push for additional changes to the House bill to provide further protections for small businesses.
“I feel an urgency to get it done right,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-In.). “A few more days is not going to hurt to get out a better version.”
Yet Senate GOP leaders, wary of a prolonged fight over the emergency relief bill amid a worsening coronavirus crisis, seemed ready to take up the amended House bill — as long as Mnuchin and Trump were on board. Additional changes, they said, can be made in the next round of emergency relief surrounding the fast-moving pandemic.
“People need to know that there’s going to be another opportunity to legislate after we take up the House bill,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “Maybe that will relieve some of the pressure and desire to amend that.”
Cornyn’s remarks came shortly after the Senate vote to approve a short-term extension of the government’s most contentious surveillance powers, which had expired on Sunday. That bill heads next to the House, where it could meet a one-man road-block: Louis Gohmert, who left open the possibility that he would stage a protest similar to that surrounding the coronavirus bill, and prevent it from moving by unanimous consent.
“Depends on whether we’re open to having some additional reforms in there,” he said. “Cause I would rather not have one than to go forward with the lack of reforms that are currently missing.”
Asked if he would be in the Capitol Tuesday, when the bill may reach the House floor, Gohmert was terse.
“Well, I may need to,” he said.