Coronavirus stimulus package: Pelosi 'confident' House will send bill to Trump with 'strong, bipartisan vote'

Speaker says Fed chairman urged her to 'go big' with all COVID-19 relief bills because of low interest rates

John T. Bennett
Thursday 26 March 2020 16:03 GMT
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is "confident" the House on Friday will send a $2trn coronavirus economic aid package to Donald Trump to sign into law via a "strong, bipartisan vote."

The Senate late Wednesday night approved the measure, 96-0, after several delays. The measure includes direct payments to some Americans, small business loans, and assistance for large companies to help the country during the COVID-19 pandemic and national lock down. It also includes beefed-up unemployment insurance as tens of millions of Americans seek jobless benefits.

The lower chamber is following its normal rules by giving its members 24 hours to review the measure before floor debate and a likely final vote on Friday.

Ms Pelosi said she does not foresee needing to call back all of the chambers over 400 members, saying she intends to use a "voice vote" process after some debate. Some conservative members say they are headed to Washington to object to any attempt by House Democrats to merely approve the aid bill via a unanimous consent motion, meaning if no member voiced discontent, the measure would simply pass. Both approaches are routinely used by the House.

That means Friday could be a noisy one on the House floor, with some conservative Republicans expected to objet to unemployment insurance provisions they claim would create incentives for some workers to get laid off and pull in more income from government benefits than their day jobs – then simply go get those day jobs back when the beefed-up benefits expire in four months. Democrats reject the premise that a substantial number of workers would resort to such shenanigans.

Still, the California Democrat said more needs to be done in terms of testing and help for medical workers. Ms Pelosi warned that "the light at the end of the tunnel" actually being a "train" that crashes into an already hobbled country. (The president earlier this week, while declaring victory against the virus before any public health worker or GOP member of Congress, said the United States is seeing just that light as he seeks to reopen all or parts of the country by 12 April.)

"We have to do more," she said, echoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in saying her chamber could be called back after Friday after a short notice to take up a future coronavirus aid package. The $2trn bill is the third, and Trump administration officials and lawmakers already are talking about a "phase four" measure next month.

To that end, she said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told her privately to "go big" with any and all super bug relief packages because "interest rates will never be lower," meaning borrowing monies to deal with the crisis is more affordable for the federal government.

"Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate," Ms Pelosi said while reminding Americans to wash their hands routinely to help stop the spread of the virus.

The speaker urged national, state and local officials to "follow the science" two days after Mr Trump said he picked the 12 April goal because it would be a "beautiful time." That is Easter Sunday, and the president claims to want to see churches "packed."

A large portion of his conservative base is deeply religious.

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