May 15 (UPI) -- The House passed a rule to allow lawmakers in the chamber to vote remotely as it considers a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill Friday.
Lawmakers voted 217-189 to push the rule change, which will allow them to vote while away from Washington, D.C., during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's the first time in the House's more-than 200-year history that the chamber will be allowed to vote remotely.
Republicans voted against the measure, calling it a partisan power grab. Democrats said the rule change will allow congressmen to stay home and maintain social distance, measures meant to protect them from the coronavirus.
The measure temporarily allows congressmen to vote remotely by proxy and for committee proceedings to take place remotely.
The House was expected to vote Friday on the latest coronavirus relief bill, one that the White House has threatened to veto.
Known as the HEROES Act, the legislation Democrats unveiled on Tuesday aims to funnel money to state and local governments to address issues that were not included in previous measures and increase funding for the U.S. Postal Service.
Republicans have balked at the package, deriding it as a partisan move filled with expenses unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, a notion the White House repeated Thursday in its letter to the House of Representatives.
"This proposed legislation, however, is more concerned with delivering on longstanding partisan and ideological wish lists than with enhancing the ability of our nation to deal with the public health and economic challenges we face," the Trump administration said. "If H.R. 6800 were presented to the president, his advisers would recommend that he veto the bill."
When it was unveiled, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., described it as having three pillars to reopen the economy safely and quickly, to honor those fighting the coronavirus and to put money in the pockets of Americans suffering under strict lockdown measures put in place to prevent spread of the virus.
"We can all agree that we must open our economy as quickly as we can, but we must do so based on science and data," she said.
The letter was sent on the same day the Labor Department announced nearly 3 million more Americans filed new unemployment claims, pushing the eight-week total to more than 36 million.
In late March, President Donald Trump signed a more than $2 trillion COVID-19 bailout package, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said instead of working on a new bill, focus should be on maximizing the effects of the first package.
"We now have a debt the size of our economy," McConnell said. "So I've said, and the president has said, as well, that we have to take a pause here and take a look at what we've done."