Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, thanked President Donald Trump for his efforts to improve the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but said that he still could not support it.
“Tonight, I was asked to vote on a 110-page bill that spends billions of dollars and contains numerous mandates on small businesses only 26 minutes after receiving the text,” Byrne said. “Although I agree with many of the provisions in this legislation, this is no way to govern. We should be sending a message of calm and steady leadership in the face of this crisis, not forcing through bills in the dead of night. While it is critical that we continue to take actions to address the coronavirus, we should do it thoughtfully and responsibly. For that reason, I reluctantly voted no. I appreciate the Trump Administration working to greatly improve this bill over what was proposed by Speaker Pelosi. I hope that the Senate next week will engage in the due diligence that House Democrats were unwilling to do.”
The Trump administration originally asked for $2.5 billion, over a billion dollars of that was existing spending being redirected. That was rejected by Congress and they passed a bipartisan $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations on March 4 and 5.
Since then many more Americans have been diagnosed with the illness. The cruise lines industry has been halted. Most major sports leagues have suspended their season. There will be no NCAA basketball tournaments, baseball, or other spring sports played. President Trump has ordered air traffic from Europe halted to stem the tide of new infections. The stock markets have tumbled leading to fears of a new global recession. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act pays for testing for the virus, expanded unemployment benefits, expanded family leave, increased spending for subsidized health insurance for the poor, and nutrition programs for children and the elderly.
Trump endorsed the legislation over Twitter.
“This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump wrote.
The president added that he was directing cabinet secretaries to issue regulations ensuring small businesses would not be hurt by mandates in the bill.
“I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!” Trump said. “I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST,” the president wrote. “Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”
The bill passed by a vote of 363 to 40.
Thus far 63 Americans have died and thousands are infected, including 23 Alabamians.
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. He is not seeking another term in Congress.
Original reporting by the Washington Post contributed to this report.