Democrats in the Chamber of Deputies narrowly passed a $ 3 trillion bill to deal with the devastating economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, the hardest hit country in the world.
The measure passed the House on Friday in a 208-199 vote, but Republican leaders pledged to block it in the Senate. President Donald Trump, a Republican, also promised to veto if he got to his table.
The huge plan, which was contested by 14 Democrats and approved by a Republican, would cost more than the previous four combined coronavirus accounts.
It would hand over nearly $ 1 trillion to state and local governments, another round of $ 1,200 direct payments to individuals and help unemployed, renters and homeowners, college debt holders and the struggling postal service.
"Failure to act now is not only irresponsible in a humanitarian way, it is irresponsible because it will only cost more," warned Mayor Nancy Pelosi. "More in terms of lives, livelihoods, cost to the budget, cost to our democracy."
Steve Scalise, a leading Republican, urged the House to defeat the bill, calling it "socialist distribution" and blaming China, where the coronavirus emerged at the end of last year, for the suffering caused by the pandemic.
The economic consequences of the outbreak in the United States were enormous, with some 36.5 million people – or more than one in five workers – filing for unemployment since the crisis began.
The project's approval came when the United States registered more than 85,000 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. The number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the USA far exceeds any other country.
Since March, Congress and the Trump administration have collaborated on four coronavirus projects, approving them with overwhelming bipartisan support.
This fifth bill, however, failed to attract Republican support in the House, except Congressman Peter King of New York, an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
Republican Party leaders say they want to assess how $ 3 trillion previously approved is working and see if the partial reopening of businesses in some states would trigger an economic revival that would facilitate the need for more safety net programs.
Republicans are also looking at internal divisions and waiting for stronger signals from Trump about what he will support.
Trump and major Republicans, such as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, are insisting that the next move should protect the reopening of companies from lawsuits. The president is also demanding a cut in wage taxes, but Republican leaders are not yet on board.
Democrats are opposed to these two ideas.
Passing the bill on Friday could trigger a new round of negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans. To increase the political effect of the bill, Democrats called their measure "The Law of Heroes" for the payments it would provide to frontline emergency workers.
While Democrats and Republicans argued about the project and its cost, the rhetoric sometimes became spiteful.
Democratic Rep Tim Ryan complained about the destructive effect of a pandemic that left millions unemployed, families unable to pay their rents and food banks struggling to meet growing demands.
"The Republican Party says & # 39; we have no money to help you. & # 39; Are you kidding me? ' he shouted across the hall in the chamber of the house that divides the two parts.
Early Friday, the House also approved a change in its rules to allow members to temporarily vote by proxy during the crisis, if Pelosi deems it necessary.
The Democratic initiative, which was contested by Republicans, marked a historic shift for Congress, which had never allowed lawmakers to vote anywhere except in the House of Representatives.
This happened when Congress struggled to function in the midst of the pandemic, with members mainly sheltering at home, in an effort to help stop the virus from spreading.
Under the new proxy voting rules, members of the Chamber can vote in remote locations.
Friday's votes brought about 400 members of the House back to Washington for the third time since late March.
The session was governed by physical distance and other protective measures, so that the House does not become a breeding ground for the disease it is trying to contain. Many members of the household wore masks and some surgical gloves.