Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will move swiftly Friday to give final congressional approval to a historic $2 trillion coronavirus rescue plan and then pivot to considering additional steps to bolster the hobbled economy.
“We’ll have a strong bipartisan vote and hopefully by noon be finished,” Pelosi said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. The legislation then would go to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The Senate passed the unprecedented package of loans, tax breaks and direct payments on a 96-0 vote late Wednesday night, an illustration of unity in Washington as the spread of the virus grinds the economy to a halt.
Although the size of the package dwarfs any previous stimulus effort, it may not be enough to cushion a big short-term hit to the economy and a dramatic rise in unemployment. A record 3.28 million people filed for unemployment insurance in the week ended March 21, and lawmakers have joined many economists in saying more stimulus will be needed.
Pelosi said her goals for another round include protections for pensions, increased funding for food stamps and more money for state and local governments. She also want to make sure that both testing and related treatments for coronavirus infections are covered.
“We still have some unfinished business,” she said. ”Our next bill will lean toward recovery, how we can create good-paying jobs as we go forward, perhaps building the infrastructure of America.”
Pelosi said Democrats managed to improve the Senate’s bill to make it more pro-worker. She said this week’s legislation is all about mitigating the spread of the virus and the impact on the economy, and future legislation will be about “recovery.”
The Senate-passed legislation included more than $150 billion in aid for states, but several governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have called that inadequate. Pelosi said she spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about directing as much assistance as possible to local efforts to deal with the outbreak and speeding aid to small businesses by going through banks as well as the Small Business Administration.
She said some of the state and local government help could come through the Federal Reserve in addition to what’s in the stimulus legislation.
“State and local government is going to need much, much more infusion of cash. They’re just not going to be able to meet the needs,” Pelosi said.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said at a news conference that before more stimulus is added Congress needs to see the impact of the existing legislation, including two measures passed earlier.
“Let’s let this bill work,” he said.
Senators left Washington after voting Wednesday, with no plans to return until April 20. At an earlier news conference at the Capitol, Pelosi didn’t give a future schedule for the House but said “everybody has to be on call.”
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced late Wednesday that the House will attempt to pass the coronavirus bill on Friday through a voice vote, a process that would not require all members to return to Washington. House GOP leaders said they also support this strategy.
“In order to protect the safety of members and staff and prevent further spread of COVID-19 through members’ travel, the Republican leader and I expect that the House vote on final passage will be done by voice vote,” Hoyer wrote in a letter to colleagues.
However, any House member could demand a recorded, roll-call vote, which has potential to drag out the process.
Republicans matched Pelosi’s optimism that the bill would get passed with little drama.
“We will have a debate and a voice vote. I don’t think there will be a need for anything else,” McCarthy said.
— With assistance by James Rowley
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