Welch Backs $2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package, From Afar | Off Message

Welch Backs $2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package, From Afar


Rep. Peter Welch - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Rep. Peter Welch
The U.S. House on Friday signed off on a $2 trillion relief package meant to provide emergency assistance to individuals, businesses and states coping with the coronavirus outbreak.

The bill, which cleared the Senate on Wednesday, passed the House by voice vote and was signed by President Donald Trump later Friday.

House leaders had hoped to approve the legislation without calling many members back to the Capitol. But after Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) threatened to derail the proceedings if a quorum was not present, many lawmakers scrambled to return.

Welch was not among them.

"Peter is trying to respect the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] public health guidelines prohibiting large gatherings, so he will not be traveling to DC unless a roll call vote is called and he is needed by leadership to pass the bill," spokesperson Lincoln Peek wrote in an email Friday morning. "Peter strongly supports the bill and expects it to pass by voice vote today."

In the end, Massie's attempt to demand a roll-call vote failed, and the legislation passed by voice vote.

In a written statement, Welch celebrated its passage.

"This bill will quickly provide much needed assistance to families who are struggling to make ends meet, small businesses trying to figure out how to keep the lights on, and our medical providers who are caring for our loved ones and neighbors," he said. "We have more work to do to pull us out of this unprecedented crisis, but this bill is an important step to help us get there. Vermonters know that we are all in this together."
The relief package — the third passed by Congress in recent weeks — would provide direct payments of $1,200 to individuals making up to $75,000 a year, plus $500 per child. It increases the amount of money those on unemployment receive and the length of time they receive the benefit, and it expands eligibility to self-employed workers and independent contractors.

The legislation also provides hundreds of billions of dollars to businesses and hospitals.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) backed the deal, said Wednesday that it would direct $2 billion in funding to Vermont.

Disclosure: Paul Heintz worked as Peter Welch’s communications director from November 2008 to March 2011.