The U.S. House votes overwhelmingly to pass $8.3B coronavirus bill. 1 Arizonan votes no

March 4, 2020
In The News

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed an $8.3 billion emergency new coronavirus spending plan on Wednesday that earned only two "no" votes, with one of them coming from Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona.

The bill, introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., passed 415-2. The measure now goes to the Senate.

The legislation includes $3 billion for research and development of vaccines and other diagnostic tools, $2.2 billion in funds for prevention and preparedness, among other items.

It is intended to help combat the virus that has killed at least 11 Americans so far.

Lowey said the bill includes "entirely new funding and strong transparency and accountability measures to fully address the virus and keep Americans safe from this growing public health emergency."

It allows for an estimated $7 billion in low-interest loans to small businesses affected by the virus. The bill also provides for reimbursing state and local governments for their costs while assisting federal authorities.

Biggs, who has occasionally been a contrarian on otherwise popular measures, voted against the bill, accusing Democrats of politicizing the deadly virus by seeking to outdo President Donald Trump's request for $2.5 billion.

"In true Washington, D.C., fashion, congressional appropriators turned the president’s reasonable $2.5 billion request into a bloated $8.3 billion package," Biggs said in a written statement. "By passing this larded-up bill, Congress again fails to wisely appropriate taxpayer dollars. ... Throwing money at a potentially serious issue does not alleviate the American people’s concerns. Nor does politicizing the issue to score points for future elections."

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., was the other member to oppose the spending plan.

Seven Arizona House members, including the state's three other Republicans, voted for the measure. 

Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., who last week criticized the Trump administration for sending defective test kits to Arizona officials, welcomed passage of the House bill.

"Americans need a fully funded, coordinated, government-wide response to stay safe and healthy," he said. "We're working together to combat the virus and save lives."

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., did not vote on the bill.

The broad, bipartisan support wasn't free of political spectacle, however.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., wore a gas mask to the House floor before voting for the measure. 

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., also voted for the bill, but said the nation was spending more than $9 million per person for the number of new coronavirus cases currently under review.

"Democrats are trying to tie pieces of their liberal agenda to (new coronavirus) funding. Democrats are playing games with American lives. Shameful," he wrote in a tweet.

Biggs was on the short end of a 407-23 vote last year on a resolution that condemned anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bias following controversial comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

Biggs called that measure before the House "a watered-down resolution that said virtually nothing."

He also was among seven House members who voted against paying federal workers back pay during the record-long shutdown that ended in early 2019.

Biggs complained that bill would require back pay in future budget standoffs.

Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at ronald.hansen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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