FederalHealthcareTaxes & SpendingSenate Passes Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave Bill Despite Concerns From Small Businesses

Senators with concerns over the paid sick leave provisions were reportedly told by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "gag and vote for it anyway."
March 18, 2020
The Senate overwhelmingly passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” on Wednesday by a vote of 90 to eight. The House passed the same bill over the weekend with an overwhelming majority as well.

The bill contains an expansive paid sick leave mandate which would require businesses with fewer than 500 employees to provide 12 weeks of family leave — of which 14 days can be unpaid and the rest must be paid at at least two-thirds the rate of their usual pay — and 112 hours of paid sick leave.

Many businesses are concerned that this will make for an insurmountable burden during an already difficult time — with grocers and pharmacists specifically lobbying against the measure.

The bill was almost derailed, however, after House leadership added a currently unknown length “technical corrections” amendment. The Texan obtained a copy of one 87-page draft and House Rep. Louie Gohmert threatened to object to the unanimous consent motion that would approve them, but ultimately relented.

Both of Texas’ senators voted for the measure.

The Texan Tumbler

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), stated on the floor, “It creates a new federal emergency paid sick leave program for those impacted by the coronavirus, whether a worker is diagnosed with the virus or caring for a dependent who was affected, they’ll be able to take up to 10 days of paid sick leave. Many Texas workers will have up to 12 weeks of paid leave for care for dependents because of coronavirus-related school closures.”

“This bill also makes coronavirus testing free of charge for all Americans and includes a range of measures to support the health care professionals who are literally on the front line of this fight.”

His colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), added, “While this bill is not perfect, it will provide much-needed relief for the men and women in Texas who right now are hurting as a result of this outbreak.”

About the paid sick leave provisions, Cruz stated, “I am, however, very concerned that this legislation’s burdensome leave mandates could unintentionally drive small businesses into bankruptcy. That’s why I joined with Senator Johnson on an amendment to fix this problem and instead provide relief by temporarily enhancing the unemployment insurance program. I’m disappointed that the Senate voted down our amendment, largely along party lines, leaving these very real concerns unaddressed.”

The bill now moves to President Trump’s signature where he is expected to sign it swiftly.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.