News & Politics

No, The Coronavirus Emergency Spending Bill Still Hasn't Made It to the Senate. Here's Why.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during her weekly media availability on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 27, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act after many negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Forty Republicans voted against the bill, sparking outrage from leftists on Twitter. Yet when the Senate returned on Monday, the House had yet to turn over the emergency coronavirus bill for passage.

As it turns out, “the bill remains hung up in negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House,” Politico reported, citing “multiple Capitol Hill sources.”

“We still do not have a final draft of the negotiated changes being called ’technical corrections’ and some of us believe that the newly worded laws should be finished before we pass them,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) tweeted on Monday afternoon.

These “technical corrections” come after Republicans cried foul over the underhanded way Pelosi handled the spending bill.

Gohmert released an in-depth statement on Saturday that helped clarify what had happened.

“There was a great deal more money in the original bill this week going to things that had nothing to do with our Coronavirus national emergency – including a provision that provided for federally funded abortions,” he explained. “Our President stood firm on things that needed to be in there and to take out things that did not. As a good leader does, he left the specific language of the bill to the so-called experts in Congress. However, the actual wording is too often done by staff members who have never run a business, filed a quarterly tax report, or ever had to cut expenses to stay in business.”

“I was proud of the work the President did negotiating, especially calling the Speaker’s bluff when she demanded a vote on Thursday because she was going to leave and not be there on Friday. Then she said she would not be here on Saturday so we had to vote right away to pass a bill before we knew what was in it. But with this bill, President Trump made clear that he did not want to destroy small businesses in our effort to help those who could not help themselves in this crisis,” Gohmert added.

The congressman received a version of the bill at 9 p.m. Friday evening and another version of the bill at approximately 11:57 p.m. “The new bill was 110 pages, while the 9 pm version was 108 pages. I did not even have time to do a side-by-side to see what was different” before the House rushed to vote, he recalled.

Pelosi appears to have used this opportunity to sneak in all sorts of lawmaking disconnected from the crisis and rushed the bill so that Republicans who might otherwise object were forced to vote for something they had not read. Sound familiar? Perhaps they had to pass it to find out what’s in it…

Gohmert noted a few provisions that would actually hurt workers. Under the bill, workers would get “up to 10 weeks of wages at the bill’s mandated 2/3’s rate as ‘public health emergency leave’ instead of receiving workers compensation because workers comp is non-taxable though employer paid leave is taxable. That provision hurts the worker.”

The bill, Gohmert said, “really needed to be examined in context with existing law, but we, as elected officials, were not afforded the time to see what this language would do. Apparently, we will leave that to some judge like I [sic] used to be to figure it out. But that will only come after some government bureaucrats use their own interpretation that could cause massive damages sufficient to cause a lawsuit, or that causes an affected business to go out of business.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) slammed the bill for not going far enough to help Americans hit by the coronavirus crisis. Speaking on “Fox & Friends,” he predicted the Senate would not pass the bill as written.

“It doesn’t go far enough and it doesn’t go fast enough,” Cotton said. “Most of the measures in this bill are something that the senators will support, I believe. … But we worry that the bill setting up a new and complicated system relying on businesses giving paid sick leave and then getting a refundable tax credit that won’t move quickly enough and could put pressure on those businesses to lay workers off.”

The Senate may focus on an alternate strategy. Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) asked members to submit ideas for an additional stimulus package by noon Monday, a Senate aide told Politico. In this context, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) proposed a universal basic income for the coronavirus threat, leading the Twittersphere to claim he had joined the “Yang Gang.”

In a statement Sunday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that the Senate has yet to “receive the final version of the House’s coronavirus relief legislation.” He focused on three “pillars” for legislation: “further steps to directly help Americans overcome financial challenges; further significant steps to secure our nation’s economy, particularly Main Street small businesses; and further steps to ready our healthcare system and support medical professionals.”

That final pillar is arguably the most important — and it is likely to bring the greatest agreement between Republicans and Democrats.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proposed solutions from his self-imposed quarantine. While he acknowledged that the coronavirus will pose “a major economic challenge,” he focused his proposals to stop the pandemic.

He urged the Trump administration to focus on: “making testing more accurate and more widely available; assuring there’s enough preventative equipment for first responders; getting hospitals the equipment they need, such as ventilators; and streamlining the process for developing cures.”

Focusing on health care solutions rather than large economic proposals will help the House, Senate, and White House agree on legislation more quickly, but it seems Pelosi is intent on packing any legislation with liberal wish-list items.

It remains unclear exactly why the House bill has still failed to materialize in the Senate, but Pelosi’s shenanigans are likely a key culprit. It appears she is trying to stuff leftist legislation into an emergency bill, and then blame Republicans for hesitating to support it.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.