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U.S. House passes $500 billion relief package

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The House of Representatives passed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief package on Thursday (April 23), pushing the total spending to address the crisis to an unprecedented near $3 trillion dollars.

The economic toll from the virus has now thrown a record 26 million Americans out of work in just the past five weeks.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, SAYING:

"This is really a very, very, very sad day. We come to the floor with nearly 50,000 deaths."

Before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed bipartisan support for the bill, but slammed Republicans who refused to include additional funding for state and local governments.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, SAYING:

"Unfortunately, they did not want to put the heroes into this bill today. As fully as they should by supporting state and local. And what does the distinguished leader on the senate side, Mr. McConnell, say? 'I'm not doing anymore bills, I think the states should go bankrupt.' Oh, really?"

The Republican-led Senate passed the legislation on Tuesday, after which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear that he was reluctant to give states federal aid.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, SAYING:

"My view is we've gone so far on the national debt here."

McConnell suggested in a radio interview on Wednesday that states whose finances are depleted by the virus could declare bankruptcy.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, SAYING:

"You want to see that market fall through the cellar?"

At his daily news briefing on Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo strongly criticized that suggestion.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, SAYING:

"This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time. Yes, airlines are important. Yes, small business is important. So are police, and fire and health care workers."

Most of the funds in Thursday's aid package will go to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which ran out of money last week.

Lawmakers were forced to return to Washington despite stay-at-home orders after some members of both parties threatened opposition to the bill.

Most Democrats wore masks. Many Republicans didn't.

The Democratic-led House also approved a new select committee, with subpoena power, to probe the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus and will have broad powers to investigate how federal dollars are being spent.

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