69ºF

Coronavirus updates in Texas: U.S. Senate passes $2 trillion stimulus package

The Capitol is seen as lawmakers negotiate on the emergency coronavirus response legislation, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol is seen as lawmakers negotiate on the emergency coronavirus response legislation, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Thursday's biggest developments:

• U.S. Senate passes $2 trillion stimulus package

• Campaigns face uncertainty after runoff postponed

U.S. Senate advances $2 trillion stimulus package

[5 a.m.] The U.S. Senate unanimously passed one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation in American history late Wednesday night, aiming to mitigate the fallout from a COVID-19 outbreak that has forced people across the nation to self-isolate and disengage from American commerce.

Nearly 900 pages in length, the $2 trillion bill will direct payments of up to $1,200 to adults and $500 per child. There is also $500 billion allotted in aid to large corporations, including airlines, and $350 billion in small business loans.

The affirmative votes included those of Texas’ U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. In all, 96 senators voted in favor the bill. Three Republican senators missed the vote due to self-quarantines after being potentially exposed to the virus.

The bill now heads to the U.S. House and faces a complicated trajectory. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was deeply involved with the Senate negotiations, but House members are currently in their home districts — many sheltering in place. There is little appetite to bring those representatives back to Washington and risk endangering their health.

With those concerns in mind, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer alerted House members as the Senate vote concluded that his chamber would gavel into session Friday morning to take up the bill via a voice vote. The House GOP leader, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, expressed his support for that procedural maneuver Wednesday.

A voice vote is when the presiding officer decides the bill’s outcome based on the strength of ayes versus nays, rather than the normal procedure of members punching a voting card into an electronic slot. — Abby Livingston

Texas campaigns prepare for uncertainty after runoff reset by coronavirus

[5 a.m.] Not only has the pandemic of the novel coronavirus upended how candidates campaign for the foreseeable future, it has also caused the May runoff election to be pushed back seven weeks, adding more uncertainty to a high-stakes election cycle in Texas. The changes impact runoffs in a slew of especially consequential races, from the U.S. Senate contest to most of the U.S. House races that national Democrats are prioritizing.

The state's marquee runoff is the one to determine which Democrat will challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas: MJ Hegar, the former Air Force helicopter pilot, or Royce West, the longtime state senator from Dallas. Both have moved their campaigns entirely online, and Cornyn announced March 17 that he was "suspending all campaign-related activities."

West has had the additional responsibility of responding to the outbreak in his capacity as a current elected official — not to mention one representing Dallas County, the hardest-hit part of the state. And Cornyn has given the Democrats plenty to seize on, from his comments blaming the Chinese for the virus to his running Twitter commentary on congressional negotiations over coronavirus aid. — Patrick Svitek