PRESIDENT CALLS OPPONENT OF PLAN A ‘THIRD RATE GRANDSTANDER’
>>WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday a US$2 trillion (65 trillion baht) rescue plan to salvage a US economy crippled by the novel coronavirus, on a day the nation’s total count of Covid-19 cases surpassed 100,000.
Mr Trump’s signature brought an end to a weeklong legislative saga on Capitol Hill and has triggered the distribution of millions of relief checks of up to $3,400 for an average American family of four.
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives had united to green-light the mega-plan as the number of recorded deaths hit 1,693.
“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Mr Trump said.
“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses. That’s what this is all about.”
The vote in the House was notable for the implementation of social distancing rules that prevented lawmakers from gathering on the floor, leading to unprecedented scenes of members sitting in the upper galleries to allow for sufficient spacing.
With the House in recess last week, leaders had wanted a quick voice vote requiring just a few members present.
But Republican Thomas Massie, who opposed the bill, threatened to stall the measure.
Mr Massie had refused to go along with the bill arguing that transparency was needed given the size and scope of the legislation.
“Is it too much to ask that the House do its job, just like the Senate did?” Mr Massie tweeted.
Ultimately the House defeated Mr Massie’s manoeuvre and passed the legislation but not before Mr Trump savaged his fellow Republican on Twitter as a “third rate Grandstander”.
Mr Trump signed a separate order late on Friday allowing the Pentagon to bring former troops and members of the National Guard back to active duty to help the military combat the virus, the Washington Post said, citing a Pentagon spokesman.
The president also took the longcalled-for step of invoking the Defense Production Act to compel auto giant General Motors to quickly honour its commitment to making ventilators, machines crucial to keeping critically ill coronavirus patients alive but which are in short supply in hospitals.
“GM was wasting time,” the president said.
Nationwide the number of coronavirus cases surpassed 104,000. The need for medical supplies is acute in New York state, the US hotbed of the epidemic where 44,635 infections have been confirmed.
The death toll there increased on Friday to 519 — up from 385 — but Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed optimism that the increase in hospitalisation rate has slowed.
Mr Cuomo announced the creation of temporary hospitals at large facilities in each borough of New York City — including at a horse racing track in Queens — modelled on an already-constructed space in Manhattan’s Javits Center.
The national rescue bill pumps $100 billion into hospitals and health facilities in critical need of medical gear like personal protective equipment and intensive care beds, creates a $500 billion loan reserve for large corporations including airlines, and provides $377 billion in grants to small businesses.
It also dramatically expands unemployment assistance, aid that will cushion the blow for a staggering 3.3 million people who filed jobless claims in the week ending March 21.
“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the measure passed.