WASHINGTON (WMTV) -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a coronavirus relief package 363-40 after the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic.
Wisconsin Congressman Bryan Steil (R-Janesville), was one of three representatives from the state that voted against the bill.
The bill includes: free virus testing for those who lack insurance, paid sick leave, family and medical leave programs, enhanced unemployment benefits, additional food aid and federal funds for Medicaid.
Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-Campbellsport) and Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay) also were among the 40 Republican votes against the relief package. The measure had President Donald Trump's support, but the three voted against it, even after Trump's endorsement.
On Friday night, Trump gave the first indication that he backed the measure and wanted Republicans to vote for it, tweeting, “Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”
Congressman Steil issued a statement after his vote on Saturday morning:
"I’m working with the Administration as we address coronavirus. I supported $8.3 billion in federal emergency funds to help states combat the coronavirus outbreak and accelerate testing. These funds are currently at work assisting those on the front lines fighting the pandemic. I also support President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency which releases an additional $50 billion to address our situation. Further, I support the new public-private partnership President Trump announced on Friday to improve testing capabilities and overall testing speed. It is critical we continue to improve our testing capabilities.
Last night’s bill, which was released shortly before midnight and voted on an hour later, places a heavy government mandate on Wisconsin small businesses that are already suffering negative consequences from coronavirus. We need to support job creators, not penalize them. I will continue working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to address the ongoing pandemic.”
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson issued a statement on Saturday morning ahead of the Senate vote after Congress passed the measure:
“President Trump has shown decisive leadership by restricting travel, declaring a national emergency, and forging a public-private partnership on testing. As the country works together to get through the challenges caused by the coronavirus, Congress must be thoughtful in its efforts to support workers and their employers.
To reduce the coronavirus’ spread, we don’t want sick people feeling economic pressure to go in to work. Small businesses are especially going to feel the burden of this pandemic, with a growing list of canceled events and business shutdowns. We don’t want to cause further economic harm by passing bad legislation.
Although mandating that all employers must pay for sick leave might sound good, we need to consider the unintended consequences of this legislation. I fear that rather than offering a workable solution, the House bill will exacerbate the problem by forcing small businesses to pay wages they cannot afford and ‘helping’ them go further into debt.
A better way to address the situation and support workers who may be out due to illness or quarantine is to use existing state unemployment funds to accomplish the objective: Temporarily change laws to allow for this use, waive waiting periods, and have the federal government plus up the payments to equal lost wages.
I hope the Senate will approach this with a level head and pass a bill that does more good than harm – or, if it won’t, pass nothing at all. The president and states already have adequate authority and funding to address the current situation.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher released the following statement on Saturday:
“This bill, while well-intentioned, contains a number of unclear provisions that could force small businesses in Northeast Wisconsin to lay off workers or cause them to close their doors altogether. To concede, as both sides did, that the bill had serious flaws that would need to be fixed by to-be-determined Executive Branch regulations is legislative malpractice, and that’s not to mention the fact we received this bill at 12:03 a.m. and voted nearly 15 minutes later.
“Let me be clear: H.R. 6201 contained a number of good provisions like free testing that we’ve already successfully fought for. But I have serious questions as to whether the best way to support those needing paid and sick leave is through tax credits to small businesses instead of direct payments to those affected. In times like these, we have to do better than rushed closed-door deals that could create more problems than solutions. We had more time to get this right, and the fact Speaker Pelosi is now allowing the House take a week-long vacation is unconscionable. We all agree those living paycheck to paycheck should’t have to decide between going to work or endangering their coworkers, but we need a solution that doesn’t cause severe and unintended economic damage. I hope the Senate fixes these problems return on Monday and that we return immediately to debate a responsible, bicameral, bipartisan response that doesn’t.”