Dems Eye Massive Coronavirus Phase Four Bill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats rolled out a framework Wednesday for a coronavirus recovery effort that they compared to digging out of the Great Depression and World War II.
While the speaker only put a dollar figure on part of the proposal -- $770 billion in infrastructure projects and health care facilities -- she said it would be in the "ballpark" of the $2 trillion President Trump recently called for on Twitter. “We must take bold action to renew America's infrastructure," Pelosi said. "We need to invest in our infrastructure to add some of the critical impacts and vulnerabilities that have been laid bare by the coronavirus." Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) the chairman fo the Transportation Committee, said the investment needed to meet the scale of America's great historic challenges. "What did we do to get out of the Depression?" DeFazio told reporters on a conference call, citing some of the famous alphabet soup programs of the Depression era. "But then it was really the massive retooling of America for World War II. We're going to need to retool America, rebuild our infrastructure." The big chunks of the plan were part of a 5-year initiative the Democrats first unveiled in January that included:
$329 billion for highways and bridges;
$105 billion for transit;
$86 billion for broadband;
$12 bill for the Next Generation 9-1-1 system;
$34.3 billion for clean energy projects;
$76 billion for drinking water and waste water systems;
$40 billion for harbors and flooding mitigation;
$30 billion for airports, and
$55 billion for rail projects.
But Pelosi said that would only be part of the eventual package. "When the president talks about $2 trillion, he's talking about 10 years," Pelosi said. "We're talking about five years -- 760. And then we will have education and housing on top of it. So we're probably in the ballpark of the same amount of investment for the future." She also said there would likely be much more funding for state and local governments trying to deal with coronavirus. Other items that Republicans rejected in the recent $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill could be included as well, such as reform for reeling pension systems, expanded family medicals leave, worker safety provisions, a rescue of the hard-hit Postal Service, and likely much more money for slammed hospitals. Still, Republican leaders have been cool to the idea of revisiting major spending so soon after the last massive bill passed. “What I disagree with the speaker on is she's already saying we need to work on phase four," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Guy Benson radio program Tuesday. "Look, the current law has not been in effect for even a week yet.” He also served notice that anything Republicans deem to be a left-wing wish-list item -- as they labeled several priorities Democrats had hoped to put in the previous bill -- would be rejected. "I’m not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items that they would not otherwise be able to pass," McConnell said. He added that Congress was not even scheduled to be back until April 20. Pelosi insisted she was attempting to work with the GOP while Congress is out, and that there was no reason to delay. "My motto is resting is rusting," she said. DeFazio said a lot depends on Trump because the Republicans on DeFazio's committee at least support the infrastructure spending. "We have yet to see a plan from the administration on this subject," DeFazio noted. "I could provide legislative language in very, very short order for this package. "It's the funding that's been holding us up,," he said. "If the president insists on funding, then I believe that Sen. McConnell and [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy will move on this issue. That makes a huge, huge difference."