Last Week In Congress
Last Week In Congress is a long-running Sunday series on NPI's Cascadia Advocate that helps people across the Pacific Northwest and beyond follow how Washington, Oregon, and Idaho's United States lawmakers voted. The illustration above incorporates photo art depicting the U.S. Capitol from NPI's image library.

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, March 27th.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives
The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

APPROVING $2.2 TRILLION TO CONFRONT CORONAVIRUS: The House on March 27th approved on a voice vote a $2.2 tril­lion res­cue pack­age (H.R. 748) to cush­ion the impact of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic on U.S. work­ers, fam­i­lies, busi­ness­es and med­ical care­givers. In part, the bill would provide:

I. Pay­ments

One-time non-tax­able pay­ments, deliv­ered by mail or direct-deposit, of $1,200 to indi­vid­u­als with annu­al incomes up to $75,000 and $2,400 to cou­ples earn­ing up to $150,000, plus $500 per child. Grad­u­al­ly reduced pay­ments would be made to indi­vid­u­als earn­ing between $75,000 and $99,000 and cou­ples in the $150,000-to-$198,000 range. High­er earn­ers are exclud­ed from the benefit.

II. Unem­ploy­ment Insurance

$250 bil­lion to finance four months’ expand­ed unem­ploy­ment insur­ance, under which those los­ing jobs because of the virus would receive $600 per week on top of their state’s base lev­el of job­less pay. The $600 pay­ments would be made avail­able to gig econ­o­my work­ers, inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors, the self-employed and oth­ers inel­i­gi­ble for reg­u­lar unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits in their state.

III. Small busi­ness loans

$350 bil­lion in low- or no-inter­est loans through June 30th to enable busi­ness­es with few­er than five hun­dred employ­ees to meet pay­roll and cer­tain over­head costs includ­ing rent. The loans would be total­ly for­giv­en for com­pa­nies agree­ing to not lay off work­ers and rehire those already dis­missed dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. So that the mon­ey is quick­ly infused into the econ­o­my, banks would con­duct the lend­ing and receive Trea­sury reim­burse­ment of their expenditures.

IV. Loans for large firms

Loans bear­ing no more than two per­cent inter­est to com­pa­nies with five hun­dred to 10,000 employ­ees that agree not to send jobs over­seas. The first six months would be inter­est-free, and repay­ment sched­ules would be delayed for six months.

V. Mon­ey for state, local, and trib­al governments

$150 bil­lion help state and local gov­ern­ments cov­er the cost of fight­ing the pan­dem­ic, with $8 bil­lion allo­cat­ed to trib­al governments.

VI. Mon­ey for hos­pi­tals and the health­care system 

$130 bil­lion to help hos­pi­tals, com­mu­ni­ty health cen­ters and nurs­ing homes pro­cure sup­plies and equip­ment and boost staffing lev­els, plus $1 bil­lion for the Indi­an Health Service.

VII. Mon­ey for farmers

$50 bil­lion for Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture loan pro­grams to ben­e­fit farm­ers and ranchers.

VIII. Mon­ey for the defense sector

$17 bil­lion to com­pa­nies includ­ing Boe­ing deemed vital to nation­al security.

Sup­port­er Kevin Brady, R‑Texas, said:

“For the larg­er and most dis­tressed busi­ness­es, we pro­vide loans know­ing [their] sur­vival is cru­cial to mil­lions of Amer­i­can work­ers. These loans aren’t bailouts. They’re giv­en with over­sight and repay­ment to com­pa­nies who did noth­ing wrong but suf­fered col­lat­er­al dam­age as a result of this virus.”

Oppo­nent Ken Buck, R‑Colorado, said “we are fac­ing an unprece­dent­ed emer­gency, one tied direct­ly to China’s nefar­i­ous actions. How­ev­er, as Pres­i­dent Trump said, we can­not let the cure be worse than the prob­lem itself….We believe that the fight against the virus will take six-to-eight weeks, yet this bill spends mon­ey decades into the future.”

The House vot­ed as a cham­ber to send the bill to the White House.

NPI EDITOR’S NOTE: Because no record­ed vote was tak­en (the vote was done by voice), there is no roll call to share. We are unaware of any oppo­si­tion to the bill from mem­bers of the Pacif­ic North­west­’s House delegation.

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate
The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

MARSHALING $2.2 TRILLION AGAINST CORONAVIRUS: The Sen­ate on March 25th passed, 96 for and none against, a bill (H.R. 748, above) that would mar­shal $2.2 tril­lion in com­ing months against the nation­wide spread of the coro­n­avirus. In addi­tion to pro­vi­sions described above, the bill would autho­rize $400 bil­lion for loans and grants to large cor­po­ra­tions, cities and states.

To receive the full ben­e­fit of these pay­ments, com­pa­nies could not reduce staffs by more than ten per­cent, weak­en union con­tracts or use the mon­ey to boost exec­u­tive com­pen­sa­tion or finance stock buy­backs or div­i­dend payments.

For loans, these restric­tions would be in force until the repay­ment date plus one year. The gov­ern­ment would col­lat­er­al­ize loans by obtain­ing equi­ty shares in recip­i­ent com­pa­nies. About $60 bil­lion of the fund would go to the air­line indus­try, with at least $25 bil­lion used to pay salaries and pro­tect hun­dreds of thou­sands of jobs in the air-pas­sen­ger sec­tor from planes to airports.

The Trea­sury Depart­ment, and by exten­sion the White House, would choose recip­i­ents and be required to iden­ti­fy the win­ning com­pa­nies to Con­gress with­in sev­en days and the pub­lic with­in four­teen days, with con­tract terms revealed.

The pro­gram would be over­seen by a Trea­sury inspec­tor gen­er­al and a con­gres­sion­al­ly appoint­ed five-per­son review board.

Com­pa­nies con­trolled by Trump, Pence, cab­i­net mem­bers or mem­bers of Con­gress — or the chil­dren, spous­es or in-laws of those offi­cials — are inel­i­gi­ble to ben­e­fit from the $400 bil­lion res­cue fund and oth­er pay­ments in the bill.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the House.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 6 aye votes

DECLINING TO TRIM JOBLESS BENEFITS: Vot­ing 48–48, the Sen­ate on March 25th defeat­ed a Repub­li­can-spon­sored amend­ment to H.R. 748 (the CARES Act, above) that sought to pro­hib­it laid-off work­ers from tem­porar­i­ly receiv­ing unem­ploy­ment pay­ments in excess of their salary. The bill would allow job­less indi­vid­u­als to receive, over four months, $600 per week on top of their state’s stan­dard ben­e­fit. In states with rel­a­tive­ly high ben­e­fits, the add-on could result in indi­vid­u­als receiv­ing total pay­ments over four months a few thou­sand dol­lars high­er than their like­ly salary over the same period.

Rick Scott, R‑Florida, said unem­ploy­ment insur­ance is “the best and quick­est way to get mon­ey to peo­ple who need it most. But we should not cre­ate a sys­tem where ben­e­fits are high­er than their salary. We can­not pay peo­ple more to not work than to work.”

Richard Durbin, D‑Illinois, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Whip, said: “When less than half of the peo­ple in Amer­i­ca have $400 in their sav­ings, the notion that we might end up giv­ing peo­ple anoth­er $1,000 or $2,000 at the end of four months, to me, is not some­thing we ought to be ashamed of or run away from.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Murray

Cas­ca­dia total: 2 aye votes, 4 nay votes

Key votes ahead

The House sched­ule for the week of March 30th was to be announced by Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi. The Sen­ate will be in recess.

Edi­tor’s Note: The infor­ma­tion in NPI’s week­ly How Cas­ca­di­a’s U.S. law­mak­ers vot­ed fea­ture is pro­vid­ed by Votera­ma in Con­gress, a ser­vice of Thomas Vot­ing Reports. All rights are reserved. Repro­duc­tion of this post is not per­mit­ted, not even with attri­bu­tion. Use the per­ma­nent link to this post to share it… thanks!

© 2020 Thomas Vot­ing Reports.

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