WASHINGTON — Hours after the Senate and the White House reached a bipartisan deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday that the legislation would help American workers — but she did not indicate whether the House will move forward with it.
In a statement, Pelosi signaled that the agreement that resulted from negotiations between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin is an improvement from the original GOP proposal but it doesn’t go as far as the plan she released earlier this week.
“This bipartisan legislation takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said.
While the speaker said that it meets some of the Democrats’ demands, she did not say if or when or how the House would take it up if the Senate passes it as is expected.
“House Democrats will now review the final provisions and legislative text of the agreement to determine a course of action,” Pelosi said.
Shortly after Pelosi released her statement, the House adjourned until 11 a.m. Thursday. This means that even if the Senate passes the package Wednesday, it is likely the House would not act on it until Thursday, according to a Democratic leadership source.
Another Democratic leadership source said that there is, however, emergency convening authority, but even so, a vote is more likely to happen Thursday.
As she arrived at the Capitol Thursday, Pelosi told reporters that she’s “optimistic” about the Senate bill but they haven’t seen the legislation yet.
House lawmakers are back in their districts and the leadership has suggested it would be too complicated to bring them back to Washington to vote since some have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, with others self-quarantined, and it could also be logistically difficult for people to return because of travel disruptions.
On a piece of legislation this comprehensive, lawmakers would normally vote in person and cast a recorded up or down vote, but because of the situation, Democratic leaders have told members that they’d like to pass it by unanimous consent or voice vote.
In both circumstances, the full House would not be required to be present and the legislation could be passed while most House members remain in their districts. A single member, however, could derail the entire process if he or she raises an objection on the floor. A report prepared by the House Democrats last week that explores the voting options said that the House could adopt a rules change that would increase the number of people it would take to object to a unanimous consent request.
During the 1918 flu pandemic, the report noted, the House used the unanimous consent option to pass critical legislation because it was a national emergency.
Democrats have concluded that remote voting is off the table. Another option would be voting by proxy in which a member would designate another member to cast the vote on his or her behalf.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced early Wednesday morning after the agreement was reached that the Senate would vote on it later in the day. Schumer said in a letter to his colleagues that his members are ready to give unanimous consent to speed up consideration of the measure.
As negotiations continued Tuesday, Pelosi signaled in multiple television interviews that she supported a number of provisions that she knew were folded into the legislation, but she expressed concern during a conference call with House Democrats later in the day.
“We’re in the red zone. A big advance but not everything we want. I’m worried they’re planting poison pills in there,” she said.