House passes coronavirus relief bill after Trump announces his support

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan legislative package in response to the spread of coronavirus in the early hours of Saturday morning following intense negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration.

Posted: Mar 14, 2020 11:42 AM

(CNN) -- The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan legislative package in response to the spread of coronavirus in the early hours of Saturday morning following intense negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration.

The bill passed with broad, bipartisan support and a final tally of 363-40 with 40 Republicans voting against it and Independent Justin Amash of Michigan voting "present."

Late in the day on Friday, President Trump Donald tweeted his support for the measure that includes provisions for paid emergency leave and free testing for COVID-19, after Pelosi announced that Democrats had struck a deal with the administration.

Trump's backing cleared the way for a broad, bipartisan vote in the House with the Senate expected to take up the measure when it returns to session next week.

In a series of tweets, the President said, "I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act, which will be voted on in the House this evening."

"This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers. I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt. I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!"

The announcement from the President put an end to uncertainty that had loomed over negotiations all day.

In a letter to House Democrats on Friday evening ahead of the President's tweets, Pelosi announced a deal, saying, "We are proud to have reached an agreement with the Administration to resolve outstanding challenges."

Despite the announcement of an agreement, however, the White House and Pelosi's office were still sorting out issues into Friday evening with the legislative language, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Pelosi said in her letter that the legislation is made up of a number of provisions, including "free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured."

The legislation will provide, according to Pelosi, "paid emergency leave with two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave." It will also expand federal funding for Medicaid "to support our local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems, so that they have the resources necessary to combat this crisis."

House Democrats had been planning to vote Friday on a coronavirus relief measure with or without bipartisan support amid uncertainty over when exactly the vote will happen and whether the Trump administration will ultimately get behind the bill.

Trump earlier criticized the legislative package during a news conference on Friday afternoon from the White House even as Pelosi and Mnuchin continued to negotiate.

In remarks delivered from the US Capitol roughly an hour before the President publicly expressed his dissatisfaction, Pelosi insisted that the House of Representatives will move to pass the legislation, saying definitively, "Today, we are passing a bill." House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer echoed that priority in a letter to House Democrats saying that the House would vote on a relief bill one way or another.

"The speaker has literally been working around the clock to achieve a bipartisan agreement on our further response to the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic," the Maryland Democrat said. "If we reach agreement, we'll vote on it. If not, we will vote today on our bill, which incorporates nearly all of what the Administration and Republicans have requested."

The House has been gearing up for a vote after top negotiators spent the past day in discussions over how to reach a consensus agreement between House Democrats and the Trump administration.

The concern over coronavirus has scrambled leaders to try and pass a comprehensive package that would address paid sick leave and expand the social safety net for vulnerable children and families whose lives may be disrupted by the virus.

The effort comes as concern and anxiety mounts over the rapid spread of coronavirus across the United States -- a development that has jolted the financial markets.

Throughout the day on Friday, however, uncertainty over whether the President would ultimately get behind the legislative package complicated negotiations.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, however, Trump did not say he would support the legislation.

"Well, we just don't think they're giving enough. We don't think the Democrats are giving enough," the President said. "We're negotiating. We thought we had something, but all of a sudden they didn't agree to certain things that they agreed to. We could have something but we don't think they're giving enough. They're not doing what's right for the country."

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy convened a last-minute conference call with his members, walking them through remaining sticking points even as he remained upbeat a deal could still be clinched over the upcoming hours.

The California Republican told members that there were plenty of good things in the bill -- particularly on the testing elements, which have strong GOP support. But McCarthy also addressed that there were some glaring technical mistakes, and that the GOP wanted to do more to ensure concerns about supporting small business jobs were addressed.

Congress passed an $8.3 billion total coronavirus response package last week, but there is a strong sense among lawmakers that more needed to be done to respond to the economic fallout from the spread of the virus.

On Saturday morning, Trump praised the effort in a tweet, saying that "people really pulled together" to advance the legislation.

"Good teamwork between Republicans & Democrats as the House passes the big CoronaVirus Relief Bill. People really pulled together. Nice to see!" he wrote.

This story has been updated with additional developments Friday and Saturday.

The-CNN-Wire
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