Arizona’s U.S. House delegation noted misgivings with parts of the $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, but helped pass with a voice vote Friday the largest economic stimulus package in the nation’s history, sending it to President Donald Trump.
Trump is expected to sign the legislation immediately, giving the government the authority to send most Americans checks, and provide billions in aid to hospitals and loans to businesses.
Every House member who spoke in rushed floor speeches acknowledged the bill had to pass to keep alive an economy placed in, as one member of Congress put it, a “medically induced coma” to manage the global pandemic that has killed thousands worldwide and disrupted life in every corner of the globe.
Even so, some members focused their remarks on what they disliked about the deal that emerged only after Senate Democrats forced changes that included oversight to business loans and added provisions for items the GOP deemed irrelevant — and worse.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said he was supporting the bill out of national necessity and despite Democratic additions that he termed “petulant demands.”
“As a result of a virus that emanated from China and spread throughout the world, and through no fault of their own, many Americans are on the brink of losing their jobs, their homes, or worse. We are facing unprecedented circumstances and they require an unprecedented response,” he said in a statement.
“Under normal circumstances I would not support adding $2 trillion to the national debt, especially by extraordinarily lavish funding nonsense like the Kennedy Center, a theater used by the Washington elite and far removed from real Americans.”
Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., who supported Democratic opposition to the initial Senate version earlier in the week, focused on what he liked in the bill before the House.
“Families and businesses across America and Arizona are struggling, and health-care workers and first responders are being asked to perform their important work without proper protective gear,” O’Halleran said.
“In my district, the Navajo Nation is dealing with a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 cases. There were 71 confirmed cases in the community as of last night. This bill allocates over $1 billion to the Indian Health Care Service and to tribal health care providers, and over $400 million to tribal governments for equipment.”
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who voted against the first two rescue bills, lamented again the many things he didn’t like in the third governmental response to the pandemic.
“I’ve heard folks from both sides, and particularly the other side, talk about, this is all for the families and the working people. And yet I find myself saying if that’s the case we might have produced a bill that didn’t include millions of dollars for nonessential, non-emergency related funding,” he said, citing help for National Public Radio and the Smithsonian Institution, among other items.
“These may be worthy or not, but they certainly have no place in an economic relief package, and it’s a shame that they’re in here. The president is rightly concerned about whether the cure here may be worse than the sickness.”
Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., said the nation’s economy was doing “amazing” before the pandemic, and wanted to return to that quickly.
“We all have these moments in our political lives where we walk up in front of this microphone and we’re going to say, ‘I’m going to have to vote for something that has things in it that breaks my heart,'” he said. “But we must do the right thing. We must get back to that economic growth. We must get back to that prosperity that was enveloping this country.”
Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., did not attend the House vote. Both supported the legislation, their offices confirmed Friday.
The bill’s passage caps a long week of compromise that included the raw partisan rancor familiar in a polarized Washington, but fell away for weeks as the pandemic spiraled in America.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., noted that 13 people in her district died from the coronavirus in a single night.
“Our community’s reality is this country’s future if we don’t do anything,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat, complained that under-equipped health care workers are jeopardizing their own lives while Senate Republicans sought “one of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American history.”
“There should be shame about what was fought for in this bill,” she said.
The House voted in person Friday after Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and a handful of others, resisted allowing a voice vote. It forced members, including those from Arizona, to fly cross-country to cast their vote.Back to News