House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday suggested she is optimistic that lawmakers in Washington will coalesce behind a new multitrillion-dollar spending plan that Democrats have proposed in the chamber.
House Democrats revealed a $3 trillion package that includes funding for state and local governments, additional direct payments to Americans and billions more for health-care and testing purposes. If passed, it would be the fourth and most expensive one in a series of bills passed to address both the coronavirus pandemic and its economic effects.
"I think that there's an opportunity here for us because this is only centered — only centered — on the coronavirus," the California representative told CNBC's Jim Cramer in a "Mad Money" interview. "Although it's a big ticket, it's a big problem."
The bill would dole out almost $1 trillion in assistance for state and local governments, $200 billion in hazard pay for certain essential workers and $75 billion to expand coronavirus testing and contact tracing. The latter is seen as a centerpiece to reopening the U.S. economy.
The package would also dish out another $1,200 in direct payments to individuals and increase the maximum amount to $6,000 for households with children. The measure, among other priorities, also seeks to extend federal support for unemployment rolls through January. The $600 per week in additional unemployment benefits was approved through July.
The $3 trillion price tag would trounce the historic $2.2 trillion package lawmakers pushed through in March.
"All of these provisions have had provenance in our former four bills that passed in a bipartisan way," Pelosi said. "All of them are supported by Democrats and Republicans across the country."
House Democrats, however, would need to win over the support of some key Republicans in Congress to get the bill on President Donald Trump's desk. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy both said the legislation in its current form is too aspirational. McConnell said the bill doesn't "deal with reality," while McCarthy referred to it as a "liberal wishlist."
Democrats and Republicans, including at the state and federal levels, have been divided over providing funding for state and local governments. Tax revenues have dried up across the country as communities cope with the economic ramifications of the lockdowns intended to slow the spread of the virus.
"This is a negotiation. We think this is what is necessary to meet the needs of the American people," Pelosi said in the interview. "State and local, testing, testing, testing and putting money in the pockets of the American people."
The pandemic is a health crisis teetering toward an unprecedented financial crisis. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 1.3 million people have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 81,000 have died of complications from the respiratory infection. More than 33 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the past two months as the unemployment rate shot up from historic lows to more than 14%.
Pelosi said what makes this situation different from the Great Depression is that the economic disaster of the 1930s was not "compounded by a threat to the lives of the American people." She said the big-ticket legislation is needed to get a handle on the virus and understand its disparate impact on communities.
"These numbers are unimaginable, so the combination of the two ... is just horrific, and we have to act, and that's why we want to open the economy and our schools, but to do so we must test, test, test," Pelosi said. "Everyone agrees to that, except those who have not made a decision to do that."