WASHINGTON—When Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) left his Texas home at 3 a.m. on March 16 to drive to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to catch a flight to Washington, it was to force House Democrats to put changes in writing that they were making to the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which the chamber approved late March 14.
“God bless Louie, who had to drive from Tyler, Texas, to Dallas at 3 a.m. to make a 6:15 flight that landed at 9:55 a.m. He’s a freaking hero,” a senior congressional aide who requested anonymity told The Epoch Times on March 17.
“You have no idea how crazy it was, you really don’t,” the aide said. “They were going to UC a bill yesterday that hadn’t been written yet. It wasn’t all written down when Gohmert got here.”
The “UC”—unanimous consent—the aide referred to is a legislative tool normally used to approve non-controversial measures and nominations without having to go through hours of debate or a time-consuming record vote. If just one senator or representative objects, however, the process is stopped.
Legislation often requires “technical corrections” to fix drafting errors, grammatical mistakes, and the like. But Gohmert insisted on seeing the corrections in writing before he would support their adoption through a unanimous consent process made necessary by the House recess this week.
“Last night, some of the elected members of Congress heard that substantial changes were being made to [the bill] that the House passed in the wee hours Saturday morning without being afforded the luxury of time to read the final bill before we voted. I read the 9 p.m. version, but was given no time to read or compare the midnight version,” Gohmert said in a March 16 statement.
“Once again, because the Saturday morning bill was rushed so hysterically to passage, it requires more pages of changes, supposedly about 46 pages of ‘technical corrections,’ some of which are truly substantive and not just ‘technical’ corrections to a bill that was 110 pages long. The last draft of the ‘technical changes’ I saw was 87 pages long,” Gohmert continued.
“The Democrats are writing the so-called ‘corrections’ as we speak. Having someone here in D.C. prepared to object forces the Democrat leadership to at least have the law changes drafted before they are approved by a Unanimous Consent vote,” he said.
One provision left unchanged is one mandating small businesses provide two weeks of paid leave for employees forced to stay home by the coronavirus or official measures combating it. The senior aide said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposed removing the provision.
Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.), who supported the overall bill, noted in a statement that “while the bill does include provisions that allow a business to receive a 100% refundable tax credit, it puts the burden on the small business to front those costs. This will be devastating to most small businesses and could force some to close their doors permanently.”
Timmons also pointed to the fact the bill “would take effect 15 days after the President signs it into law. This drastically limits the time small business owners have to educate themselves about this law and how they will be impacted.”
Further complicating matters on March 17, President Donald Trump is now pushing for yet a third coronavirus relief measure, this one an economic stimulus package estimated to cost $850 billion.
The details of that new proposal are being negotiated among Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional leaders from both parties.
The proposed measure reportedly would include an estimated $500 billion in economic relief or stimulus achieved via a payroll tax cut or other mechanism, as well as a $50 billion aid package for the nation’s commercial airlines that have been hit particularly hard hit by the crisis.
Approximately $200 billion in loans for small businesses would also be made available with the package.
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc.