As the House prepares to pass a historically massive $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday outlined more steps she wants to take to blunt damage to the economy and health-care system.
After the Senate passed the package, believed to be the biggest rescue plan in U.S. history, on Wednesday night, the House hopes to follow suit Friday in what Pelosi predicted would be a "strong, bipartisan" vote. The California Democrat set the stage for more congressional legislation as the pandemic rampages through the country.
Pelosi indicated she would push to send more money directly to Americans on top of the cash payments set out in the Senate-passed bill. The proposal would give up to $1,200 to qualified individuals and $2,400 to couples, which starts to phase out for people making more than $75,000.
"I don't think we've seen the end of direct payments," Pelosi told reporters on Thursday morning. A separate proposal House Democrats put forward this week called for direct payments of $1,500 for individuals.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the Republican leader would be open to sending more relief checks.
As businesses across the country close to slow COVID-19's spread, a record 3.3 million people filed unemployment claims last week. The number of virus cases continues to climb in the U.S., approaching 70,000, while at least 1,000 people have died from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
As lawmakers deal with an unpredictable crisis, Pelosi said Congress "has to be on call for what we need when we need it, and we don't know what that might be."
Still, the speaker outlined some immediate goals she wants to address in future bills. She highlighted free coronavirus testing and treatment, along with more money for state and local health-care grants and food assistance. She also called for tougher safety standards for frontline workers.
The outbreak has created uncertainty around when and how Congress will vote to provide relief. Most House members are currently home after two representatives tested positive for COVID-19 and others who had contact with them chose to isolate.
The Senate, where one member has tested positive, does not plan to vote again until April 20, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday night. However, he said the chamber would stay "nimble" and could get called back, if needed.
After the Senate vote, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the "odds are high" Congress will need to pass more relief legislation.