WASHINGTON — After days of drama at the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. House passed for the second time a major piece of legislation that will aim to mitigate the spread and impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has effectively brought the country's economy to a halt.
But what was anticipated to be a set of small procedural fixes before the House sent the bill to the Senate turned into a day of drama involving U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler.
The package in its current form will allocate funds for free coronavirus testing, expand sick leave provisions and bolster funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin struck the deal Friday, and it passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan margin early Saturday morning.
But on Monday, Gohmert implicitly threatened the passage of the bill's corrected version.
When House leaders spent Monday sorting out what they described as "technical corrections" to the bill.
Gohmert’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. But on Tuesday, his office clarified to the Tribune that he never demanded the bill be read on the floor, despite a Monday report stating so much.
“He just wanted them to actually write the changes into a bill before they voted on it,” a spokesperson said. “It wasn’t written in the form that passed until late yesterday afternoon.”
Most House members returned to their districts over the weekend. The changes could glide through that chamber without their return if no present members objected to a motion to unanimously consent to passing the bill. But if there was an objection, all House members would have to return to Washington to pass the bill — a process that could have taken days.
Gohmert, like several other Texas Republicans, expressed his unhappiness with the rushed nature of the bill's first version over the weekend.
"We still do not have a final draft of the negotiated changes being called 'technical corrections' and some of us believe that the newly worded laws should be finished before we pass them. #CoronaVirus," Gohmert tweeted Monday afternoon.
But by Monday evening, Gohmert withdrew his objections. That move came after reports that President Donald Trump spoke with Gohmert.
The bill passed the House without objection and will now head to the Senate for passage in the coming days. Trump is expected to promptly sign the bill into law.
U.S. Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia, D-Houston, participated in a conference call with Texas reporters Monday afternoon and addressed the matter.
"I frankly am not clear exactly what Rep. Gohmert is doing other than trying to be Rep. Gohmert as he always is, which is, you know, kind of putting a thorn on something," she said.