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Rare photos show lawmakers sitting in the House’s public gallery and using social distancing while voting on $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill


Donald Trump

Rare photos show lawmakers sitting in the House’s public gallery and using social distancing while voting on $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill

The House passed a $2 trillion stimulus package on Friday afternoon after weeks of furious negotiation on Capitol Hill about how to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus.Congressmembers had to practice social distancing in the House chamber during the proceedings, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.Some members sat in the gallery…

Rare photos show lawmakers sitting in the House’s public gallery and using social distancing while voting on $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill
  • The House passed a $2 trillion stimulus package on Friday afternoon after weeks of furious negotiation on Capitol Hill about how to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus.
  • Congressmembers had to practice social distancing in the House chamber during the proceedings, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Some members sat in the gallery above the House floor, typically reserved for visitors, staff, and members of the public. Several of them captured photos of the historic scene.
  • Photos usually aren’t allowed in the House chamber, which means Americans got a rare glimpse of what it was like inside during the historic vote.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Photos are usually not allowed in the House chamber, and designated press are only allowed to take photos during events like the State of the Union. But lawmakers broke that rule during Friday’s historic vote on a massive coronavirus relief package, as lawmakers sat scattered throughout the chamber and spread out across the public gallery above the floor.

The House was attempting to practice social distancing to avoid the transmission of the coronavirus. The disease has thrown the Capitol into a panic; at least two congressmen and a senator have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and several members have had to quarantine in recent weeks as a result.

The House passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or “CARES Act,” on Friday shortly after 1:30 p.m., sending the estimated $2 trillion stimulus plan to the president’s desk.

Lawmakers cheered the bill’s passage but avoided shaking hands afterward as they usually do. 

“A surreal scene today,” tweeted Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania, along with a photo of the chamber taken from the gallery.

—Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (@RepMGS) March 27, 2020

Rep. Josh Harder, a California Democrat, captured the scene from a different angle.

“Social distancing in the Capitol as we vote for the Coronavirus stimulus package,” he tweeted.

—Rep. Josh Harder (@RepJoshHarder) March 27, 2020

Ahead of the vote, during the debate period, some members voiced their support for the bill while wearing gloves. The lecterns were wiped down periodically with disinfectant wipes between speakers. Reporters spoke to members in the hallway but stood further away than usual as they recorded interviews. 

House leadership worked with the Office of the Attending Physician to send out a list of guidelines for lawmakers and their staff to follow ahead of the vote. Lawmakers were told to avoid getting in elevators together, and instead encouraged to take the stairs. 

Lawmakers spread out all over the chamber ahead of the vote. When congressional leaders learned that Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Republican, would be asking for a roll call vote — which would have forced all members to return to Washington to record how they would vote for the stimulus package — they urged lawmakers who were already in town to enter the chamber so that they could override him and pass the bill. 

A quorum of 216 members were needed to be in the room to block Massie’s motion. The bill originally had been set to receive a vote closer to noon but was delayed about 1.5 hours. 

To bring enough representatives into the chamber, yet keep public health advice about social distancing, lawmakers spread out in their seats and about 75 members also sat in the visitor’s section of the room. All doors to the visitor’s section were thrown open so lawmakers could walk in and take their seats without needing to touch their surfaces. 

Some members of Congress were upset at Massie’s actions.

“To be clear, it’s not just members at risk because of a petty political stunt,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts. “It’s staff, family members and all who we will come in contact with for the next 14 days at least.”

Kennedy, too, tweeted a photo.

—Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) March 27, 2020

Read more: House passes $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, which includes direct payments to Americans and business loans

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