Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Democrats will press for another wave of direct payments to Americans as Congress begins weighing the next round of emergency relief in response to the coronavirus crisis.
House Democrats had proposed a $1,500 cash infusion for all Americans in their stimulus bill, up to a certain income level — a $300 increase over the Senate package, which is expected to reach the president’s desk in the coming days.
Pelosi suggested Wednesday that neither figure is high enough, calling for another round of checks in the next wave of stimulus — the fourth since the crisis began — to be considered in the weeks and months ahead.
“We had bigger direct payments in our bill, and we think we’ll get more direct payments in another bill,” she said in an interview with CNN.
She did not say how much.
A short time later, speaking to reporters in the Capitol, Pelosi offered a broader preview of some of the provisions Democrats will seek in a phase four package, including more funding to protect pensions, tougher work safety provisions under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and funding to provide free medical care — not just testing — to coronavirus victims.
“There are a number of issues that are not holding up this [Senate] bill … but that we need to do,” she said.
Senate appropriators have already started fielding lawmaker requests for drafting legislation for the fourth phase, but they won’t be alone.
“We’ll be writing ours as well,” Pelosi told the reporters.
Pelosi played an outsize role in the crafting of the Senate’s massive, $2 trillion coronavirus relief package — the largest stimulus bill in the nation’s history — and she’s been making the media rounds this week to press the urgency of moving the proposal to President Trump‘s desk as quickly as possible.
That message is intended not only for the Senate, where the bill had stalled Wednesday evening as lawmakers fought over an expansion of unemployment insurance, but also for the members of her own caucus.
House Democrats, who have been on recess for more than a week, have complained of being shut out of the negotiations, which were conducted primarily between Senate leaders and the White House. Many are up in arms that Democratic priorities — including an expansion of paid leave, a larger increase in food stamps, vote-by-mail provisions and stronger work safety protections for medical workers — were largely left out of the Senate bill.
To ease those concerns, Pelosi and a number of Democratic committee heads conducted a series of conference calls on Wednesday with rank-and-file members to field concerns and provide policy details contained in the Senate bill. As part of that effort, Democratic leaders are reminding lawmakers that provisions excluded from the third round will be revisited in the fourth.
Pelosi amplified that message on CNN, urging lawmakers to recognize the urgency of passing phase three by “putting aside differences so that we can move forward and wait to fight another day for some of the priorities we may have.”
“Appreciate it for what it does. Don’t judge it for what it doesn’t,” she said of the Senate bill. “We have more bills to come.”
Pelosi had been hoping that, after the Senate passes the $2 trillion package, the House could move it through the lower chamber by unanimous consent, a procedure for advancing legislation without the need to call lawmakers back to Washington.
On Wednesday, however, she ruled out that option, citing warnings from GOP leaders that some of their members, wishing to debate the mammoth bill and have some record of how they voted, would block a unanimous consent request.
“I don’t think we can get unanimous consent,” she said in an interview with PBS. “There are a number of people who are working their way here — on the Republican side for sure, maybe on the Democratic side — to object to unanimous consent. But that was only one option.”
With that in mind, Democratic leaders are also eyeing a process of passing the Senate bill by voice vote or proxy vote, both of which would also make it unnecessary for every member to return to the Capitol amid rising fears of public travel.
Pelosi said she favors the former but is not advising members on whether to come to the Capitol for the vote.
“That’s their own decision that they should make,” she told reporters. “I’m not asking anybody to come or not come. I’m just telling [them] what we’re doing, and hopefully we could do it by voice vote.”