Washington — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi encouraged her Republican Senate colleagues to not waste any additional time before passing another coronavirus relief measure, warning that "time is of the essence" for Americans and businesses struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Time is very important," Pelosi said on "Face the Nation." "We have lost time. Setting aside how we got here, we cannot take a pause. [Republicans] may think it's OK to pause, but people are hungry across America. Hunger doesn't take a pause. People are jobless across America. That doesn't take a pause. People don't have enough money to pay their rent across the country. We have to address this with humanity."
The House on Friday passed a fifth coronavirus relief bill known as the HEROES Act. With a $3 trillion price tag, the measure would provide assistance to state and local governments, hazard pay for frontline health care workers and another round of direct payments to Americans. The relief bill came as another 3 million Americans for unemployment benefits last week and the hit 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression.
But the package as written faces no chance of passage in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dismissed the behemoth measure. The White House issued a veto threat Thursday, saying the legislation is "more concerned with delivering on longstanding partisan and ideological wishlists" then focusing on the country's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Republicans have suggested waiting until June or July before passing another relief package, which would give Congress time to reassess the needs of Americans and businesses as states begin to reopen. But Pelosi stressed that as local and state governmentsbecause of lost revenue, ensuring they have access to federal aid is crucial.
Health care workers, police officers, firefighters, teachers and sanitation workers are "at risk of losing their jobs" as localities are forced to make cuts, she said.
"Many of these people risk their lives to save lives, and now they may lose their jobs," Pelosi said.
McConnell has also been pushing for the next legislative package passed by Congress to include liability protections for businesses as employees begin returning to work with states easing restrictions.
Pelosi did not dismiss the possibility that liability protections would be part of a bipartisan package, saying Democrats "have no red lines," but noted the "best protections" for employers and workers is to follow workplace guidelines from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
"That protects the workers, protects their lives as well as protects the employer if they follow the guidelines," Pelosi said. "Remember when people go to work, they go home. They could bring it home to their children or they could bring it home to a senior living in their home. This is beyond just the individual at work."
The House speaker also addressed President Trump's firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick late Friday. Linick is the fourth internal watchdog to lose his post in six weeks, and the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees have launched investigations into Linick's ouster.
Pelosi called his firing and late-night notification to Congress "very unsavory" and said that if Linick was fired as an act of retaliation, it could be unlawful.