SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. John Curtis voted for the massive coronavirus relief bill Friday, saying he wanted to do his part to start the healing process and reassure family, friends and neighbors that help is on the way.
But in so doing the Utah Republican called on Congress to address the ballooning national deficit.
The $2.2 trillion recovery package is the largest in the country’s history, accounting for almost half of the annual federal budget and about 10% of U.S. economic output.
“Given the size and scope of the pandemic, it’s a hefty price tag that we can’t afford to not pay, but I challenge my colleagues to join me in getting our financial house in order so we are better prepared to tackle future disasters such as this one,” Curtis said in a speech on the House floor.
The House approved the bill on a voice vote Friday after more than four hours of debate. The Senate approved the measure 96-0 on Wednesday. It now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., called for a recorded vote, but with a quorum present in the chamber, the request was denied and the measure was adopted. Hundreds of House members scrambled back to Washington to ensure a quorum and stop Massie from holding up the bill.
“The Constitution requires that a quorum of members be present to conduct business in the House. Right now, millions of essential, working-class Americans are still required to go to work during this pandemic such as manufacturing line workers, health care professionals, pilots, grocery clerks, cooks/chefs, delivery drivers, auto mechanics, and janitors (to name just a few). Is it too much to ask that the House do its job, just like the Senate did?” Massie tweeted before the vote.
After the vote, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tweeted: “I don’t know a member of Congress more principled or dedicated to the Constitution than @RepThomasMassie. @SpeakerPelosi delayed this process repeatedly and sent the House into recess before its job was complete. Big mistake!”
Given the size and scope of the pandemic, it’s a hefty price tag that must be paid, but I challenge my colleagues to join me in dealing with the consequences of spending money we don’t have. It’s time to get our financial house in order before it becomes our next crisis. (2/2)— Rep. John Curtis (@RepJohnCurtis) March 27, 2020
Curtis is the only Utah representative in Washington. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, was on his way today, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was prepared to fly back as well. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, remains hospitalized with COVID-19.
Stewart and McAdams also supported the rescue package, saying it will help Utah families and businesses.
“This is an unprecedented time in our nation’s history. We’re facing an invisible enemy that has affected every American in one way or another. Millions have lost their jobs and millions are worried about their health and livelihood,” Stewart said in a statement.
He called it an “essential lifeline” that will give Americans support and hope.
McAdams said the country will get through the crisis by giving communities, health care providers and local governments the tools they need to respond quickly and efficiently to what’s happening on the ground with maximum flexibility and accountability.
“The bill certainly isn’t perfect, but the support it provides for working families, our frontline health care providers and Utah small businesses and their employees, is critically important. Coronavirus remains a danger to our lives and our livelihoods,” he said.
In his speech, Curtis said he’s committed to seeing resources reach the communities and the people in his district who need them the most. The sudden economic hardships that the hard-working families and business owners face is no fault of their own, he said.
“The once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances that led to this moment requires immediate action and outweighs any of this bill’s shortcomings,” he said.
Curtis said he’s heard stories of the devastating effects of COVID-19 throughout the past week during countless conversations with business owners, many who are near the brink of permanently closing their doors, and individuals impacted by the virus personally, including McAdams.
One of the most unique parts of Utah culture is the pride people take in serving one another, especially when we need each other the most, he said.
“This spirit, coupled with a targeted stream of resources designed to keep money in the economy and people healthy, will be the key ingredients to ensuring communities across the state can fully heal from this unprecedented crisis,” Curtis said.