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

Freshman Rep. Haley StevensHaley Maria StevensThe Hill's Campaign Report: Buzz builds around Warren for VP Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary 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 HoyerOvernight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in House scheduled to return for votes in late June House pushes back schedule to pass spending bills 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 BrownDemocrats lobby Biden on VP choice Democrats try to force McConnell's hand on coronavirus aid Aides expect Schumer, Mnuchin to reach deal on coronavirus relief 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 BradyExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Former Texas Rep. Sam Johnson dies at 89 On The Money: McConnell: Talking about fifth coronavirus bill 'in next month or so' | Boosted unemployment benefits on the chopping block | Women suffering steeper job losses from COVID-19 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 MassieHouse holds first-ever proxy votes during pandemic House GOP lawmaker breaks with party to back proxy voting House adopts historic rules changes to allow remote voting 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.