- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2020

Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, indicated his opposition Saturday to the coronavirus relief bill supported by President Trump and approved by the House of Representatives.

Mr. Johnson, the chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, voiced concerns about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act being considered on Capitol Hill.

In a statement, Mr. Johnson criticized language in the legislation that would require government employers and companies with fewer than 500 people on their payroll to provide paid sick leave to workers who contract COVID-19, the infectious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Although mandating that all employers must pay for sick leave might sound good, we need to consider the unintended consequences of this legislation. I fear that rather than offering a workable solution, the House bill will exacerbate the problem by forcing small businesses to pay wages they cannot afford and ‘helping’ them go further into debt,” said Mr. Johnson.

“I hope the Senate will approach this with a level head and pass a bill that does more good than harm — or, if it won’t, pass nothing at all,” he said in the statement. “The president and states already have adequate authority and funding to address the current situation.”

The Democratic-led House voted 363-40 early Saturday to pass the coronavirus relief bill, putting it on path to be considered next by the Senate where Republicans maintain a majority.

Every House Democrat and most Republicans in the House voted to pass the bill, although Mr. Johnson is hardly the only Wisconsinite to raise objections. Each of the state’s Republican congressmen — U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, Glenn Grothman, Jim Sensenbrenner and Bryan Steil — were among the 40 lawmakers who voted against the bill Saturday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted.

President Trump announced his support for the bill Friday, saying on Twitter that he encourages “all Republicans and Democrat to come together and VOTE YES” and that he looks forward to signing the bill as soon as possible.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said during a press conference Saturday that 2,226 domestic cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S. Around 50 people have died after contracting the disease, Mr. Trump said at the press conference.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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