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Democrat refuses to yield House floor, underscoring tensions on coronavirus vote

Freshman Rep. Haley StevensHaley Maria StevensDemocrat Haley Stevens hangs on to Michigan House seat Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night US Chamber of Commerce set to endorse 23 House freshman Democrats MORE (D-Mich.) praised health care workers and refused to yield the floor during the House debate Friday morning on a $2 trillion relief package for workers and businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Before speaking, Stevens, whose district west of Detroit includes two of the Michigan counties hit hardest by the coronavirus, wiped down the microphone with a disinfecting wipe and put on latex gloves as one of the precautions lawmakers were taking during the floor debate to help prevent further spread of the virus.

Stevens, like other members participating in the debate, was originally allotted one minute of speaking time but charged on despite going past her time.

"I rise before you adorning these latex gloves not for personal attention, not for personal attention, but to encourage you to take this disease seriously. I rise for every American who is scared right now," Stevens said, before the presiding officer announced her time had expired.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Hoyer on Trump election challenges: 'I think this borders on treason' Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (D-Md.) tried to make Stevens pause for a moment — "I'm going to give you more time," he said — but Stevens ignored him and Rep. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownHouse Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing Esper, amid resignation talk, reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases MORE (D-Md.), who was presiding over proceedings.

Stevens kept going even as she was granted an additional 30 seconds.

"To our doctors and our nurses, I wear these latex gloves to tell every American to not be afraid," Stevens said.

When her time again expired, Brown tried to move on since it was then Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOn The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Momentum grows for bipartisan retirement bill in divided Congress MORE's (R-Texas) turn to speak. But Stevens nevertheless continued, her voice rising all the higher despite Brown's attempts to interrupt and Republicans shouting for "order!"

Stevens kept speaking — even though it was difficult for everyone else in the chamber to make out her words amid the cacophony — for another 35 seconds before stepping away from the microphone.

"I yield back!" Stevens shouted, although she had already started walking away.

The moment underscored the tensions in the House chamber after lawmakers had to scramble to find last-minute flights to ensure the legislation could pass Friday.

House leaders had planned to pass the bill by voice vote so that lawmakers wouldn't have to travel to the Capitol and risk spreading the virus amongst themselves and others.

But Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieCheney seeks to cool tensions with House conservatives House in near-unanimous vote affirms peaceful transfer of power Ron Paul hospitalized in Texas MORE (R-Ky.) threatened to demand a roll-call vote by objecting to the absence of a quorum. House leaders then sent notices to members Thursday night asking them to come to Washington if they were "able and willing" to ensure that a minimum of 216 members were on hand to establish a quorum to pass legislation.

House officials have set up additional precautions during floor debate, including requiring everyone to use hand sanitizer before entering and exiting the chamber as well as wiping down the microphones and podiums after each use. Lawmakers and staff were also sitting at least one seat apart during floor debate.