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Empty planes, all-night drives: The Mass. delegation rushed back to D.C. to vote on the coronavirus bill

Joe Kennedy III was one the several representatives from Massachusetts who hustled down to Washington.
Joe Kennedy III was one the several representatives from Massachusetts who hustled down to Washington.Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe

Some of them drove, some of them flew, but however they got there, the majority of the Massachusetts US House delegation rushed back to Washington on Thursday and Friday to help ensure passage of the $2.2 trillion rescue package aimed at shoring up the US economy roiled by the raging coronavirus pandemic.

House leaders of both parties had hoped to pass the bill by voice vote, negating the need for lawmakers to return to vote in person and thus avoid placing anyone’s health at risk. But concerns that Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, would demand a recorded vote led leadership to call members back.

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So those that could, jumped into cars and onto planes, including most of the nine-member, all-Democratic Massachusetts House delegation. Two were unable to make the journey: Representatives Seth Moulton of Salem and Ayanna Pressley of Boston, both of whom had said earlier this week that they were in self-isolation due to concerns that they may have the virus.

Later Friday, Pressley’s office announced her test came back negative but she remained at home recovering from the flu. Moulton had said he was unable to get a test but has symptoms consistent with COVID-19. A spokesman said he would have voted for the legislation.

On Friday, having a majority of members of representatives in the chamber allowed leadership to block Massie’s maneuver and use a voice vote to pass the bill — a package policymakers hope will keep the country from plunging into a second Great Depression.

Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III tweeted that he got in his car at 4 a.m. and drove from his home in Newton to D.C.

“Let’s vote. Let’s provide relief. Let’s go home. Let’s be safe,” he tweeted when he arrived just before noon, sharing a picture of himself standing on a deserted street, the Capitol dome in the background.

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Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose, a member of House leadership, posted a photo of a deserted Logan airport terminal, where she hopped an empty plane Thursday night to be back for votes.

“Incredibly grateful to the airline & airport workers, cleaning staff and all those helping my colleagues and I get to work safely. Help is on the way,” she wrote.

Representative Lori Trahan of Westford posted a video of herself setting off in the dark for the 8-hour drive to Washington around 11 p.m. Thursday night. “I just put my daughters to bed,” she told the camera. The legislation the House was poised to pass “will give much needed relief to our workers, to our families, to our small biz owners, to our hospitals,” she said.

Representative Jim McGovern drove back to D.C. last week since, as the chairman of the House Rules Committee, he needed to be on hand in case any legislation needed to go through the committee, a spokesman said.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal of Springfield flew in Thursday night and was already on the House floor at 9 a.m. Friday morning managing a portion of the legislation, a spokesman said. Representative Stephen Lynch of Boston also came to town via plane, and spoke on the floor as well.

Representative Bill Keating, who lives in Bourne, flew out of T.F. Green Airport in Providence on Friday morning. He said the trip was a strange experience.

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“I’m not exaggerating, I was the only passenger from the time I walked in” until he got on the plane, he said. “It was really incredible.” He shared the flight with only five other passengers, so staying six feet apart was no problem.

“I sat down and I didn’t move," he said, describing the flight and how he was careful to try to touch nothing. "I didn’t take any beverage, anything that was offered. No thanks.”

He took a taxi from the airport in D.C. and the driver told him over the past five days he has had only one fare a day. “They just sit there hoping to get some business,” Keating said.

“I was hopeful we would be able to do it a different way,” Keating said of having to return to D.C. That being the case, since he isn’t experiencing symptoms, “I felt it was important to come down here and make sure we are able to advance this.”


Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.