House Democratic leaders aim to vote on the next coronavirus rescue bill as soon as next week, as Republicans in the Senate and White House downplay the need for urgent legislation to blunt the health and economic damage from the pandemic.
Democrats are working to finalize their next relief proposal, as U.S. Covid-19 cases continue to rise and government data show unemployment soared to levels unseen since the Great Depression as businesses across the country shuttered in April. On a caucus call Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told members that he hopes the House will vote on the bill next week, according to a Democratic leadership aide. He told lawmakers currently out of Washington that they would get 72 hours' notice before they have to come back for a vote.
The price tag on the next plan could reportedly approach the $2 trillion cost of the unprecedented emergency package passed in March. While Democrats have not released a specific framework of the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated it could include funding for state and local governments, money to test for and trace Covid-19, relief for the U.S. Postal Service and another direct payment to Americans, among a range of other provisions.
"With millions of Americans out of work and millions more suffering, we must act with courage, strength and urgency to provide the support that the American people need to protect their lives and livelihoods," the California Democrat said in a statement Friday responding to the April employment report, which showed the U.S. lost more than 20 million jobs as the unemployment rate spiked to 14.7%.
Republicans have not showed the same urgency to pass another rescue plan, as they grow wary of massive federal spending and generally push for a swifter economic reopening than Democrats have backed. Democrats could therefore pass legislation without GOP input, making its path to approval in the GOP-controlled Senate more difficult.
On Friday, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters that talks with Congress on another rescue plan may not resume until later this month.
"We've kind of paused as far as formal negotiations go," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not ruled out another relief bill. However, he has called for it to include liability protections for businesses as they start up again during the outbreak — a provision Democrats oppose.
The Kentucky Republican has also expressed skepticism about more aid for states and municipalities, a priority for Pelosi.
"But now we need to carefully begin to reopen our economy," he told Fox News Channel on Thursday. "That may or may not involve another rescue package. It could well happen. But we need to be more measured in going forward and see how much growth and reinvigoration we can get out of beginning to reopen the economy."