House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled a new direction Friday for the next phase of coronavirus aid, calling for more immediate assistance for American households and businesses rather than the broader economic stimulus measures she outlined earlier in the week.
In comments to reporters and a televised interview, Pelosi said she wants to expand on the $2 trillion CARES Act that President Trump signed into law last week, calling for additional direct payments to “put money in the pockets of America’s working families,” a further two-month extension of expanded unemployment benefits and additional aid to small businesses, health care providers, states and local governments.
“Let’s do the same bill we just did, make some changes to make it current,” Pelosi told reporters Friday, according to Politico.
Pelosi told CNBC that the unprecedented, bipartisan emergency spending package Congress approved last week, the largest such package in U.S. history, was a “good model” but “not enough.” She added that the infrastructure spending proposal she and other House Democrats discussed in recent days — including broadband, water systems, roads and public transit — may have to wait.
“The acceleration of the coronavirus demands that we double down on the downpayment we made in CARES by passing a CARES 2 package. We must extend and expand this bipartisan legislation to meet the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.
President Trump said Thursday the government will “probably do more” than the $2 trillion in relief funding, and he has called for a $2 trillion infrastructure package.
"POTUS has been clear that if we need to do more from Phase 3, he won't hesitate to ask, and expects Congress to act," a senior administration official told CNN, adding that the other ideas Pelosi and House Democrats put forward "aren't relevant to the challenges we face right now" and that the current focus is on "making sure Phase 3 works and being prepared to restock and reload: Phase 3.5."
Why it matters: The speaker’s shift may make a fourth coronavirus package more likely in the near term, given that Republican leaders had dismissed her efforts to prioritize a broader stimulus package including infrastructure spending.
Congressional Republicans have said they want to pause and gauge how the last relief package is working before moving onto a fourth coronavirus bill. Yet as Politico’s Heather Caygle and Burgess Everett report, Republicans are also increasingly acknowledging that additional legislation will be needed, particularly to extend benefits for small businesses to help them pay employees and cover expenses beyond the roughly eight weeks budgeted for in the last package.
Pelosi indicated she wants to push ahead. “The coronavirus is moving swiftly,” she said, “and our communities cannot afford for us to wait.”