Washington — Although Congress has adjourned for the time being, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is eyeing a "phase four" legislative package to respond to the coronavirus pandemic amid continuing signs of economic devastation and widespread job loss.
Pelosi has argued that the previous relief packages passed by Congress, including the massive $2.2 trillion CARES Actby President Trump to provide direct cash payments to Americans and expand unemployment insurance, have not gone far enough to protect workers.
"There's so many things we didn't get in any of these bills yet in the way that we need to," Pelosi told reporters on Thursday. She suggested that the next piece of legislation to address the crisis could include stronger protections for workers, increased funding for food security programs and greater support for state and local governments.
Pelosi also told reporters during a conference call on Monday that members of the House could do committee work remotely to craft a plan that would include infrastructure spending and pension guarantees. She said that her aim is to have legislation ready for the House to approve when it plans to return from recess in late April.
Pelosi suggested in an interview with The New York Times Monday that the new package could include a rollback of a tax change that affected people in states with high property taxes like New York and California. The 2017 Republican tax bill included a provision limiting Americans from deducting more than $10,000 a year in state and local taxes (SALT) from federal tax bills.
"We could reverse that for 2018 and 2019 so that people could refile their taxes," Pelosi told the Times. "They'd have more disposable income, which is the lifeblood of our economy, a consumer economy that we are."
However, repealing the cap on SALT deductions would primarily benefit high-income earners, and liberal economists are largely opposed to the idea. The Times reported a repeal would affect an "estimated 13 million American households — nearly all of which earn at least $100,000 a year." A spokesman for Pelosi told the paper that a repeal could be "tailored to focus on middle-class earners and include limitations on the higher end."
Any legislation crafted by House Democrats would also run into resistance in the Republican-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that any phase four legislation passed in the House would not get far in the upper chamber.
"I'm not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items they wouldn't otherwise be able to pass," McConnell said.
Mr. Trump also indicated in a tweet Tuesday morning that he would not support Pelosi's suggestions, reacting to her appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Pelosi said she hoped the next bill would "address the concerns of our state and local governments."
"I watched a portion of low rated (very) Morning Psycho (Joe) this Morning in order to see what Nancy Pelosi had to say, & what moves she was planning to further hurt our Country. Actually, other than her usual complaining that I'm a terrible person, she wasn't bad. Still praying!" Mr. Trump wrote.
However, in a second tweet, Mr. Trump suggested that he would support infrastructure legislation.
"With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill. It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4," Mr. Trump wrote.
Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.