On Wednesday, the senate passed a coronavirus package 90-8 with the bill going right to President Trump who signed it.
It is the second package that was voted for emergency funding among the pandemic. The senate is expected to vote on a third bill in the coming weeks. The current bill guarantees up to 10 days paid sick leave to workers who fall ill with the virus and provides for free testing.
Like many items in the senate these days, the bill faced opposition, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging for bipartisan support to aid the American people during this time of crisis.
“I will vote to pass their bill. This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” McConnell said.
Yet, when it was time to vote on the bill, eight Republican senators voted against it.
The eight senators represent seven states: Kentucky, which has 35 confirmed cases of the virus; Nebraska, which has 27; Tennessee, which has 101; Wisconsin, which has 114; Utah, which has 63; South Carolina, which has 60; and Oklahoma, which has 29 cases. The first fatality there was recorded Thursday.
By Thursday, the number of cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. topped 10,000, officials say.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who famously voted against a 9/11 first responders bill to help in the aid of those who were at Ground Zero, and was filmed working on a crossword puzzle during Trump’s impeachment trial, was among those against the recent bill.
He forced an amendment that would have partially paid for spending allocated by the bill by ending the war in Afghanistan and said that if there was no way to cover the costs, his believed it could impact Congress’ future spending.
“All because we refused to do what we were elected to do, which is to prioritize the truly vital, such as coronavirus relief and medical research, over the extraneous, such as spending money on clown colleges, gas stations and roads in Afghanistan,” he said.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse slammed the bill on the Senate floor and said governors should direct the money to were it's needed.
“There is a herd mentality around this building right now where a lot of normally smart people are literally saying things like: The most important thing is to be fast, even if the ideas that are being advocated for are not really ready for prime time and can't really withstand the scrutiny of debate. That is a really dumb idea,” Sasse said.
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn defended her decision to vote against the bill in a statement to constituents, saying, “At a time when revenue has decreased for many, it is irresponsible to implement a one-size-fits-all government mandate requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.”
Oklahoma Senators James Inhofe and James Lankford voted against it as well and both cited small business as the reason they turned it down.
“Now we have things like the small business loans. We have a lot of small businesses that are really hurting because they’re out of business. So a lot of people are unemployed," Senator Inhofe said in a statement.
“I supported the $8.3 billion health care bill three weeks ago, but this bill has a new government mandate on small businesses, which was intended to help, but I fear it will make a bad situation worse for many Oklahoma businesses,” Lankford added.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin compared the deaths anticipated from the virus to fatalities incurred in collisions.
“We don't shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It's a risk we accept so we can move about,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ahead of the vote Tuesday.
While Utah Senator and famous Republican defector Mitt Romney voted for the package, his colleague, fellow Utah Senator Mike Lee, voted no.
Lee tweeted after the vote Wednesday defending his decision and referenced famous cartoonist Rube Golberg.
The Coronavirus is a real emergency and the federal government can and should act to mitigate the economic pain from this situation. Unfortunately, this House response bill is Rube Goldberg machine of unfunded mandates and tax benefits that will only end up hurting workers.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) March 18, 2020
“Unfortunately, this House response bill is Rube Goldberg machine of unfunded mandates and tax benefits that will only end up hurting workers,” he tweeted.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott released a lengthy statement on Twitter as to why he voted no, but also thanked the doctors and hospital workers for their “tireless work” across his state.
My statement on today’s vote and the upcoming third relief package. pic.twitter.com/NVvjrr3cOO— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) March 18, 2020