House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is laying out an outline Democrats deemed as priorities in the “Phase 4” coronavirus stimulus relief package, with a focus on infrastructure, specifically broadband access and water resources.
“The fourth bill would be about recovery. We have a list of issues that are immediate — that have a short fuse,” Pelosi told reporters in a conference call Monday afternoon. “There are infrastructure needs that our country has that directly relate to how we are proceeding with the coronavirus. And we would like to see in what comes next something that has always been nonpartisan, bipartisan, and that is an infrastructure piece that takes us into the future.”
“This isn’t about how fast we can do it,” she added. “It’s how fast we must do it.”
Joined by two House committee chairs — House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and House Committee on Education and Labor chair Bobby Scott (D-VA), Pelosi said the Democrats’ fourth phase of coronavirus stimulus would be largely focused on helping the front-line medical workers, homebound parents and patients afflicted by the deadly virus — people who may have fallen through the cracks.
“I guarantee you you’re going to get some surprise bills, whoppers,” Scott said, nodding to the high cost of a visit to the emergency room or long-term intensive care. “The average family is going to be bankrupt, even if they have insurance.”
Pallone added on saying the coronavirus outbreak “revealed a lot of inadequacies with the nation’s infrastructure.”
“We are reopening hospitals that were closed. We need more community health centers in rural areas,” Pallone said. “Hopefully, Republicans will understand that and say, ‘look, we gotta relook this nation’s infrastructure, and it links to the coronavirus.’”
Pelosi said the coronavirus epidemic has provided Washington policymakers with an “wonderful opportunity” to unite and get it done.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity because I think our country is united in wanting to, not only address the immediate needs of the emergency and the mitigation for the assault on our lives and livelihoods, but also how we recover in a very positive way,” Pelosi said. “Infrastructure has never been a partisan issue. Ever.”
In addition to investments of infrastructure, House Democrats also want to use phase four to boost provide another round of cash direct payments to individual Americans, help “significantly more” money for state and local governments, as well as additional funding for hospitals and nursing homes and ensure that patients receiving coronavirus treatments free of charge.
It is unclear when Congress would act on the fourth coronavirus stimulus bill. The Senate has went into recess last week until April 20, and the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Monday in a notice to lawmakers that they’ve adopted the Senate timeline and that no votes are expected before April 20.
“We’re not coming back for a few weeks, but I do think we can be working on our committee work in the meantime,” Pelosi said. “I think it is really important that as soon as we are here, we are ready to pass legislation.”
Pelosi also shot down the prospect of allowing remote voting instead of a longtime institutional tradition of voting in the Capitol, despite the fact that at least five members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus and a handful of dozen are self-quarantine.
“Let’s not waste too much time with something that is not going to happen,” she said.
Republicans, on the other hand have stated it’s too early to consider a potential “Phase 4” package, noting that the current relief measure is in the process of being implemented.
“I’m not sure we need a fourth package,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Fox News on Sunday. “Before we go to start drafting a fourth package, I’d like these three packages we just put out — remember, it’s more than $2 trillion, the largest we’ve ever seen — to take care and get this economy moving.”
Trump signed the $2 trillion stimulus package into law last Friday.