Lone House Republican is holding up House coronavirus bill fixes

Laura Litvan

A single House Republican is holding up a fix to the House-passed virus-response bill, risking a delay for Senate plans to vote on the legislation later this week and send it to President Donald Trump.

Texas Representative Louie Gohmert said the House bill that passed in the early hours of Saturday morning wasn’t released with enough time for lawmakers to study the text, and he hasn’t yet agreed to a technical change sought by Republicans to address virus-related sick leave for small firms.

The legislation, largely negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin includes free virus testing, two weeks of paid sick leave, enhanced jobless benefits, increased food aid, and higher funding for Medicaid benefits. Trump has endorsed the bill and urged Congress to get it to his desk quickly.

Gohmert has leverage to hold things up because the House left Saturday for a week-long recess. House leaders in both parties are seeking unanimous agreement to clear the fix to avoid having all lawmakers return for a roll-call vote during the crisis.

Passing the House bill “without elected members being able to read it and then spending a weekend coming up with technical corrections that still to this minute have not been finalized, and expecting that to pass by unanimous consent with no elected officials here” is a problem, Gohmert said. “Unless you like dictatorships where unelected officials do everything.”

House leaders are talking with Gohmert to resolve his concerns, according to a Republican aide.

The House was almost entirely empty Monday morning with Gohmert one of the few lawmakers in the chamber, talking with an aide. The Texas Republican left briefly, walked to the office of Senate Majority Whip John Thune for what he thought was a meeting and then left after being told the No. 2 GOP leader wasn’t there.

Gohmert said the bill that passed Saturday had “major problem screwing over both workers and small business owners. It didn’t set out how the workers were going to be compensated.”

The Senate plans to be in session Monday and is expected to take up the House bill this week.

With assistance from Billy House and Jack Fitzpatrick.