Joe Novotny, reading clerk of the House of Representatives, at work on May 15, 2020 as lawmakers debate coronavirus relief.
The House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act – the HEROES Act for short -- a $3 trillion follow-on relief package to the $2.2 trillion package signed into law in March.
The bill passed the House on a vote of 208 to 199.
"The Heroes Act is a bold step to provide that support and ensure our nation meets the challenge of the pandemic and the ensuing economic recession," Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the bill's main sponsor, said in remarks on the House floor on May 15.
Lawmakers lowered surgical masks and other face coverings to speak on the House floor wiped down microphones and surfaces between speakers – nods to the risks lawmakers face working in close quarters amid the pandemic that has sickened more than 1.4 million Americans and caused upwards of 87,000 deaths.
Members voted in six groups based on alphabetical order in an effort to maintain social distancing measures.
One Republican crossed party lines to support the measure and 14 Democrats opposed the bill.
The HEROES Act, which House Democrats unveiled on May 12, pledged $1 trillion to state and local governments facing revenue shortfalls, and would also would establish a $200 billion fund to give essential frontline workers hazard pay. The bill also includes a new round of direct payments to Americans. Federal workers, federal contractors and federal IT are all in the mix in the bill, which has drawn scorn from Republicans in the Senate and a veto threat from the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill a "seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities" and an “unserious effort."
A White House veto threat issued in a May 15 statement said the bill "is more concerned with delivering on longstanding partisan and ideological wishlists than with enhancing the ability of our nation to deal with the public health and economic challenges we face."
A number of public sector labor unions lauded the bill for giving special considerations to federal employees and contractors such as premium hazard pay and workers’ compensation for workers who contracted COVID-19 and fell ill.
“Provisions included in the House bill would provide much-needed help and support to nurses and other health-care providers at veterans’ hospitals, to correctional officers and staff in our federal prisons, to federal meat and poultry inspectors at processing plants, and all the workers whose lives have been endangered or otherwise disrupted by this deadly contagion,” American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.
The House approved a temporary rule change to allow for proxy voting and remote committee work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote on that measure was 217-189. Specifically, the rule change permits hearings to be conducted by video conferencing and allows for House members to transmit votes on legislation remotely to members who are present in the House. No single member can serve as a proxy for more than 10 other members according to the rule.