WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that the next coronavirus aid bill should build on the bipartisan relief bills that Congress has passed so far rather than include broader Democratic agenda items such as infrastructure and rural broadband access.
That’s a noteworthy pivot for the California Democrat, who earlier has pressed goals such as a large public works measure and restoring a deduction for state and local tax payments.
Pelosi said in media appearances Friday that benefits for small businesses and the unemployed should be lengthened in the next coronavirus relief package. It’s a way to build on Democratic gains won during talks on the most recent $2.2 trillion rescue bill, which passed Congress virtually unanimously.
“While I’m very much in favor of doing some things we need to do to meet the needs — clean water, more broadband, the rest of that — that may have to be for a bill beyond that right now,” she said during an appearance on CNBC.
Pelosi’s shift followed criticism by Republicans that she was seeking to take advantage of the crisis to try to press ambitious Democratic agenda items that couldn’t pass on their own, and it came after Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear that Republicans wouldn’t agree to such add-ons.
“We need a fourth bipartisan bill,” Pelosi said. Her remarks came as fresh evidence arrived of the gravity of the economic crisis caused by the outbreak: The latest batch of unemployment figures showed that a record, almost decade-long streak of U.S. job growth ended last month.
In a hallway conversation with a small group of reporters, Pelosi said that a $350 billion program to have the federal government help keep small businesses afloat should be extended, as well as unemployment insurance for the jobless and a direct payment to most Americans.
“Let’s do the same bill we just did, make some changes to make it current and correct some of the things that we’d like to see,” Pelosi said. She also would like more generous aid for state and local governments facing budget crises because of plummeting sales and income tax revenues and higher costs for coronavirus response and safety net programs.
GOP leaders across the board have lambasted Pelosi for citing the crisis as a reason to restore the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes. Putting the deduction back in place would have chiefly helped higher income earners in high tax, Democratic-run states such as California, New York, and New Jersey. The idea was widely panned and was seen as unrealistic given opposition from Republicans.