Congressional leaders scrambled Friday to stall a rogue GOP lawmaker's last-ditch attempt to force a prolonged, roll-call vote on the massive $2 trillion coronavirus response package, which is all but certain to pass in the end.
Thomas Massie, R-Ky., signaled Friday morning that he would indeed demand a roll-call vote.
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“I swore an oath to uphold the constitution, and I take that oath seriously. In a few moments I will request a vote on the CARES Act which means members of Congress will vote on it by pushing ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘present,’” he tweeted.
He indicated he wants to ensure there is a quorum, which would require half of the members to show up on Capitol Hill. This could drag out the process for hours, in addition to raising concerns about exposure to the coronavirus on the Hill.
But House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy nevertheless signaled he’s got an exit strategy, insisting to reporters that they can pass the bill without a roll-call vote.
He did not explain how, but the expectation is that Massie will indeed ask for a recorded vote. Another member is expected to then call for a quorum, at which point a count will be conducted of all members on the floor and in the gallery -- they have been streaming into the chamber over the course of the morning and afternoon in preparation.
Presuming there is a quorum, members could still oppose the roll-call vote -- prompting a simple voice vote.
Upon catching wind of the plan, Massie howled on Twitter over the parliamentary machinations.
"It’s pretty clear now, with enough members here to pass the bill, that Pelosi and McCarthy are still working together to block a recorded vote just to insulate members of Congress from ACCOUNTABILITY. Biggest spending bill in the history of mankind, and no recorded vote? #SWAMP," he tweeted.
Emotions ran hot on the House floor all morning Friday before the looming vote on the $2 trillion stimulus bill.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., started her impassioned floor speech by noting 13 people died in one day at Queen’s Elmhurst Hospital and medical professionals still don’t have enough ventilators and personal protection equipment.
She ripped the Senate for fighting for corporate bailouts that will contribute to the income inequality gap in order for families to get “crumbs.”
“What did the Senate majority fight for? One of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American history. Shameful!” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The greed of that fight is wrong for crumbs for our families
“There should be shame about what was fought for in this bill, and the choices that we have to make.”
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said he’s “distressed by the Hobson’s choice” put forth before lawmakers Friday saying lawmakers shouldn’t have to accept unrelated “bailouts” to send relief.
“As we discussed this and also discuss a fourth [package], no more Hobson's choice. No more billion-dollar bailouts for things that are unrelated. No more policies that are long-standing for a short-standing issue that needs are critical attention,” Perry said. “…Whatever we do, let's do no harm.”
In a bizarre and seemingly unnecessary point of drama, Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., refused to stop speaking when her time ran out on the House floor, even though Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., was willing to let her finish if she had just paused to let him officially grant her more time.
Instead, Stevens continued yelling and held up her hands – clad with pink surgical gloves—in an apparent homage to front line healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic even though her mic was cut.
As the presiding speaker was pounding the gavel and ruling Stevens “out of order,” Stevens screamed “do not be afraid!”
Republicans, who are trying hard to flip the freshman rep’s seat in November, immediately pounced on the outburst as a “meltdown.”
Frustrations were already hot as lawmakers had to return to Washington in a panic after Rep. Massie, R-Ky., threatened to upend plans for a simple voice vote and force a recorded vote.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., alluded to the Massie controversy on the House floor.
“So to you who oppose this bill. Please, please stand down. We can't wait another day to help. Don't add to this disruption, by in fact, being a disruptor. Be a leader," Upton said.
Lawmakers spoke passionately about how COVID-19 is hurting the health of their communities and how the widespread shutdown of the economy is crippling families and businesses. Yet many openly grappled with voting in favor of bill they believe will be helpful, while it’s chalked full of other provisions that they disagree with.
“This is ripping my heart out because there’s things in this bill that just don’t belong there,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., “I consider them”, then the GOP rep stopped himself. “Well, I can’t say that word in front of a microphone.”
Schweikert, however, argued Congress must “do the right thing” by passing the legislation.
However, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said he'll oppose the legislation over cost and debt concerns.
"As President Trump said, we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself," Buck said.
Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" He said: "I know what ye know not." (The Cow 30)