House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced late Wednesday night that he expects the chamber will pass an economic relief bill in response to the coronavirus later in the week in a way that won’t require all members to travel back to Washington.
Hoyer wrote in a letter to colleagues that he expects the House will pass the legislation on Friday morning by voice vote.
Many lawmakers are fearful of having to travel back and forth between Washington and their communities, as well as congregate with each other in the Capitol.
But they are also under pressure to quickly act on the $2 trillion legislation that the Senate unanimously passed
late Wednesday that provides individual checks to Americans, boosts unemployment insurance payments and provides financial assistance to businesses.
Hoyer said that the passage by voice vote would still allow members who want to show up to the House floor in person on Friday morning to express their positions on the legislation.
“In order to protect the safety of Members and staff and prevent further spread of COVID-19 through Members’ travel, the Republican Leader and I expect that the House vote on final passage will be done by voice vote,” Hoyer wrote. “Members who want to come to the House Floor to debate this bill will be able to do so.”
Hoyer said that he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are figuring out a way for members unable to travel to still express their positions from afar.
“In addition, we are working to ensure that those who are unable to return to Washington may express their views on this legislation remotely. My office will send out information tomorrow with those details,” Hoyer said.
Two House members — Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah) — have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. More than a dozen other House members are self-quarantining after exposure to those members and other people who later tested positive.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also tested positive for the coronavirus.
Two other lawmakers, Democratic Reps. Seth Moulton (Mass.) and Katie Porter (Calif.), both announced Wednesday that they are ill but are not confirmed to have the virus. Moulton said that he did not qualify for a coronavirus test, while Porter is awaiting her test results.
House leaders have been weighing options for how to continue their business remotely as health officials urge people not to gather in groups to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) released a report earlier this week outlining possible options for members to cast votes in an emergency situation like the coronavirus, such as proxy voting that would allow absent members to authorize a member physically present in the chamber to vote on their behalf.