Late Wednesday night, the Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion economic relief plan to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill includes: one-time direct payments to qualifying Americans, a boost to unemployment insurance, $117 billion for hospitals and veteran’s health care, $25 billion in grants to airlines, and $350 billion in loans for small businesses, among other incentives.
The House of Representatives will vote on the bill today after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy agreed to approve the measure with a voice vote, which allows the vote to proceed without requiring all 430 members be in attendance. The highly unusual move has its risks. Technically, the House cannot legislate without the presence of a quorum, or a simple majority. If a member asserts the House lacked a quorum, the vote would pause until at least 216 representatives are present in the chamber. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Republican Congressman Thomas Massie (KY-4) have both hinted they might try to slow down the bill’s passage.
The bill comes as the Department of Labor announced a record breaking 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment the week ending March 21. It is the highest number of initial jobless claims since the department started tracking the data in 1967. The coronavirus differs from most economic crises, in that it doesn’t target a specific industry, but affects all sectors of the economy. As a result, experts expect more job losses in the coming weeks.