Only four House Republicans and one Democrat bucked their party leaders and voted against a nearly half-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package Thursday, a sign that lawmakers overwhelmingly recognize that American families and businesses are hurting and need more government aid.
The $484 billion relief package passed in a 388-5 vote just two days after the Senate unanimously approved it. The measure provides critical funding for small business loans, hospitals and virus testing. It now heads to President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE’s desk for his expected signature.
The sole Democrat to cast a no vote was liberal freshman firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDon't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery Ocasio-Cortez explains 'present' vote on Iron Dome Dingell fundraises off Greene altercation on Capitol steps MORE (N.Y.), who argued the series of relief packages passed by Congress have not gone far enough to provide assistance to working-class people or safeguards to ensure mom-and-pop businesses receive funding before big companies.
“It is a joke when Republicans say they have urgency around this bill. The only folks that they have urgency around are [chain restaurants] like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack. Those are the people getting assistance in this bill,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a fiery floor speech before the vote, where she noted that her Bronx and Queens district has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus.
“You are not trying to fix this bill for mom and pops,” she added.
The quartet of Republicans who cast no votes — Reps. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieReps. Greene, Roy fined for not wearing masks on House floor Sixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine Kentucky GOP lawmaker deletes tweet comparing vaccine mandates to Holocaust MORE (Ky.), plus three leaders of the Freedom Caucus, Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley —Apple is not a monopoly, judge rules Judge rules Apple is not 'illegal monopolist' in high-profile Epic case Lawmakers flooded with calls for help on Afghanistan exit MORE (Colo.) and Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceTrump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Trump stokes GOP tensions in Georgia Herschel Walker will speak at Trump rally in Georgia MORE (Ga.) — are all conservatives who have raised concerns about government spending and rising debt.
Biggs, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, took issue with the $12 billion set aside in the legislation for coronavirus contact tracing, where health workers try to track down individuals who have tested positive and their contacts.
“Does it allow big tech companies to surveil and trace American citizens and then turn that accumulated information over to the government? How will this data be secured, stored, etcetera?” Biggs said in a floor speech before the vote. “There are many questions that go unanswered, not the least of these, however, is the question of how much longer the American people acquiesce to unconstitutional and crushing government action."
“We need to open up America now," he added. "I call on our governors to free their citizens immediately.”
Massie, who infuriated House colleagues late last month when he forced lawmakers to return to Washington during the pandemic in order to pass a record $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, took a victory lap Thursday.
“A month ago I stood alone for the Constitution & congressional accountability. I said if truckers, nurses, & grocers can work, then so can Congress! I was called the most hated man in DC by CNN. Wow - they reported the truth!” Massie tweeted before the vote.
“Today, dozens will demand a recorded vote. #winning,” he added.
After the initial backlash in March, many of Massie's GOP colleagues joined his cause, arguing that members of Congress had an obligation to be present in the Capitol and cast their votes on the floor for such large spending packages.
Michigan Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance Vietnam shadow hangs over Biden decision on Afghanistan Kamala Harris and our shameless politics MORE, who left the Republican party last year to become an independent, voted present on Thursday, just as he did on a previous coronavirus relief bill.
The interim relief package passed Thursday was needed after $349 billion allocated for the Small Business Administration’s new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was exhausted in less than two weeks, leaving thousands of businesses across the country struggling to pay their employees and stay afloat.
The bill replenishes the PPP fund with an additional $210 billion, and includes $75 billion in aid for hospitals hit hard by the virus and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.