House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday laid out the broad outlines of the next round of coronavirus stimulus being written by House Democrats and dismissed President Trump’s calls for payroll and capital gains tax cuts, saying those cuts won’t help those hurt most by the coronavirus pandemic and that the president shouldn’t insist on them now.
“If you want to compare the need for us to change the capital gains tax, which, once again, once again, ignores the fact that there are people in our country that are hungry and that there is some equivalent to that, I respectfully disagree. There are certain things are urgent,” Pelosi said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Having a discussion of tax policy? Save that for another day and do it in a bipartisan way. But don’t draw any lines in the sand. We’re not. He shouldn’t.”
At her weekly press conference, the speaker called for more aid to state and local governments, more virus testing and “putting money in people’s pockets,” potentially in the form of direct payments, expanded unemployment insurance and tax credits.
Pelosi said those elements were all in previous coronavirus relief legislation. “So this is not plowing any new territory. It is digging deeper with more money,” she said in her Bloomberg interview.
Pelosi also called for “a significant increase” in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as food stamps, and help for the United States Postal Service. And she said she supports the use of “automatic stabilizers” that could extend unemployment benefits without requiring Congress to act repeatedly.
A ‘Rooseveltian’ response: Pelosi said Thursday that the package being prepared by House Democrats “will be big.” Though she did not provide specific figures, it reportedly could match or exceed the $2.2 trillion cost of the initial CARES Act. She said concerns about the rapidly rising national debt, which topped $25 trillion this week, should not prevent lawmakers from providing food assistance to people in need — and that it was far better to add to the debt for that than for the tax cuts passed by Republicans in 2017. "Yes, I'm concerned about the national debt," she said, "but I think it would be penny foolish to say, 'I'm sorry, we can't do SNAP to give you food because there's a national debt.'"
Pelosi also reiterated that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell had encouraged lawmakers to “think big” because interest rates are low.
Along those lines, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told MSNBC that the coming package would be “Rooseveltian” in its scope and size. He compared calls by GOP leaders including Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy for lawmakers to pause before passing any additional legislation to President Herbert Hoover’s response to the 1929 stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression.
“The people like McConnell and McCarthy and even Trump who say, ‘Let’s wait and do nothing,’ well, they remind me of the old Herbert Hoovers. We had the Great Depression — Hoover said let’s just wait it out. It got worse and worse,” Schumer said.
What’s next: Pelosi told reporters that the House would probably return next week and could vote on its latest coronavirus legislation then. It’s not clear yet whether Democrats will look to pass their legislation without Republican support, unlike previous rounds of coronavirus relief.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday called for hearings to evaluate previous coronavirus legislation before lawmakers take up any new bill, and some moderate Democrats reportedly have also raised concerns about moving ahead without bipartisan consensus or further negotiations.