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Scrubbing In to Vote, the House Returns to Consider a $2 Trillion Stimulus Plan

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Scrubbing In to Vote, the House Returns to Consider a $2 Trillion Stimulus Plan

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Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, was spotted using his suit jacket to open doors, while other senators used elbows or tissues to push elevator buttons and turn handles. (Mr. Romney later joined the ranks of the quarantined, after having contact with Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, the first senator to test positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19.) Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana and a doctor, was among the most vigilant, wiping down the Senate rostrum with disinfecting wipes and chastising colleagues to “social distance” on the floor of the chamber.

In the House, where lawmakers have been back home in their districts for more than a week, Ms. Pelosi’s plan for a voice vote is highly unusual for a measure of such consequence. But leaders settled on it so that lawmakers who wanted to speak could make their views known and those who were not physically present would not be required to record a vote.

But there is a risk: Technically, the House cannot legislate without the presence of a quorum, defined by the Constitution as a simple majority. (The House currently has 430 members; 216 are required for a quorum.) If even one member asserted that the House lacked a quorum and called for a recorded vote, the House would have to cease its business until 216 lawmakers arrived.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a liberal freshman Democrat from New York, warned on Wednesday that she might do so. Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, who plans to vote no on the bill, has also hinted that he might try to slow down its passage, prompting a warning from Representative Dean Phillips, Democrat of Minnesota.

“Dear @RepThomasMassie,” Mr. Phillips wrote on Twitter on Thursday evening. “If you intend to delay passage of the #coronavirus relief bill tomorrow morning, please advise your 428 colleagues RIGHT NOW so we can book flights and expend ~$200,000 in taxpayer money to counter your principled but terribly misguided stunt.”

Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, has also told Democrats that a Republican may object. In either case, House leaders would reschedule the vote for Saturday, and lawmakers would have to return.

It was unclear on Thursday how many members would show up on Friday. On a private conference call, many House Democrats expressed an unwillingness to travel, participants said. Mr. Hoyer told the rank and file that they should try to come to Washington if they felt comfortable doing so. But in a memo to House members, the sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol physician urged caution.



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