Senate approves House-passed coronavirus relief measure
The Senate approved on Wednesday a House-passed coronavirus relief package that includes provisions for free testing for COVID-19 and paid emergency leave, clearing the measure for President Donald Trump’s signature.
Passage of the measure will also allow the Senate to devote its full attention to passing the next relief package in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans had been critical of the House-passed legislation, but emphasized that it is urgent to get relief to the American people amid the coronavirus crisis.
McConnell reiterated today that he will not adjourn the Senate until it passes what lawmakers are describing as a “phase three” economic stimulus package in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
After an initial vote last week, the House approved a set of changes to the legislation on Monday, clearing the path for the Senate to take it up this week.
The House legislation was negotiated between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration and the President has expressed support for it.
To aid in social distancing, McConnell announced ahead of the final vote that senators would take precautions during the vote.
“What we’ll do is have a 30-minute roll call vote. We want to avoid congregating here in the well,” he said. “I would encourage our colleagues to come in and vote and depart the chamber so we don’t have gaggles of conversation here on the floor. That’s particularly important for our staff here and the front of the chamber, so I would encourage everyone to take full advantage of a full 30-minute roll call vote. Come in and vote, and leave.”
He asked members to be aware of “social distancing” as they came over to the chamber and departed it and said, “With that, I think we will be able to get through the voting that will occur in all likelihood later today without violating any of the safety precautions that have been recommended to us by the Capitol Physician and others.”
Trump’s support for the House measure cleared the way for a broad, bipartisan vote in the House at the end of last week. The House later approved a set of changes to the legislation on Monday, clearing the path for the Senate to consider it, which scaled back their efforts to offer millions of Americans paid sick and family leave.
The revised legislation would still provide many workers with up to two weeks of paid sick leave if they are being tested or treated for coronavirus or have been diagnosed with it. Also eligible would be those who have been told by a doctor or government official to stay home because of exposure or symptoms.
Under the revised bill, however, those payments would be capped at $511 a day, roughly what someone making $133,000 earns annually. The original measure called for workers to receive their full pay but limited federal reimbursement to employers to that amount.
Workers with family members affected by coronavirus and those whose children’s schools have closed would still receive up to two-thirds of their pay, though that benefit would now be limited to $200 a day.