House gives overwhelming okay to $484 billion virus aid package

With strong bipartisan support, the House on Thursday overcame individual jitters about being in session during the Coronavirus outbreak, as both parties joined to easily send President Donald Trump a nearly $500 billion measure with further aid for small business, along with help for hospitals and virus testing efforts.

"This is important for our communities and our small businesses," said Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA).

"We should spare no expense when it comes to testing, treatments, and vaccines," said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL).

"It is past time that we add this necessary funding," said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). "But we all know that this cannot be the end of our work."

The package includes over $300 billion to refill the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, along with $75 billion in aid for hospitals hit by the virus outbreak, and $25 billion to jump start efforts on Coronavirus testing.

The vote was conducted under unique circumstances, as House members went to the floor in pre-assigned groups, in order to minimize the chance of Coronavirus infection.

"This is a good day for our businesses and hospitals," said Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL).

"I think a silver lining in all of us will be all of us seeing America pull together," Waltz said on the House floor.

The debate on the latest batch of aid included both politically pointed - and poignant moments - as the two parties sparred over the timing of relief, even as they joined together on the final vote.

"I'm going to take a moment to dedicate this legislation to my dear sister who is dying in a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri right now, infected by the Coronavirus," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

The debate included floor speeches from several lawmakers who had been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, including Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), who was hospitalized for treatment at one point.

"We're here today functioning," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). "Obviously we're taking precautions," as most members wore masks in the halls of the Capitol.

There was also grumbling from members of both parties about Congress being on the sidelines in recent weeks, as lawmakers said it was time to get back to Capitol Hill, no matter the threat from the virus.

"Congress must get back to work here in the Capitol," said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI), who said it was wrong that most lawmakers had been home for the past four weeks.

"Today we vote for one crucial item, and depart again," Mitchell said.

"No hearings, no oversight," said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), who blasted what he labeled "half-assed legislating" by lawmakers.

"Congress must convene - not just today - but every day until America is back on track," said Roy. "Congress should be here, Madam Speaker."

Only a handful of members voted against the plan: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).

Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) voted 'Present.'

While House members debated, the Coronavirus touched the family of one member of the Senate, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced that her oldest brother had died from the virus.

"I’m grateful to the nurses and frontline staff who took care of him, but it’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say “I love you” one more time," Warren wrote on Twitter, "and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close.”

“I'll miss you dearly my brother,” Warren added.

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