House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that a fifth COVID-19 relief bill would soon be ready and called on Republicans to agree to longstanding Democrat demands that the next package must include aid to states and local governments.
“There will not be a bill” without such aid, Pelosi said during a press conference. While she did not specify her expectations for the price tag of the next bill, she said it would be “expensive.”
Democrats have been pushing for federal aid to states and local governments, which is not included in the most recent $500 billion relief bill signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday. Called the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, it replenishes the popular small business loan program that has run out of money and boosts funding for hospitals to ramp up COVID-19 testing.
Trump signaled in a tweet that items left out of the recent bill, like payroll tax cuts, infrastructure initiatives, and fiscal relief to state and local governments for lost revenues from COVID-19, could be included in the next round of aid.
Pelosi’s remarks follow the adoption of four bipartisan relief bills, worth some $3 trillion, to help businesses, workers, and families cope with the economic and social fallout of the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
The fifth bill could see partisan fault lines revived as Republicans and Democrats seem poised to tangle over federal aid to states and local governments grappling with the outbreak.
The Democrat agenda for state funding has already seen some Republican pushback, with Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) telling a conservative talk-radio host on Wednesday that federal aid to states could amount to bailing out cash-strapped states controlled by Democratic administrations.
“I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”
Echoing McConnell’s remarks, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in a tweet: “States should always plan for a rainy day just like any business. I disagree that states should take Fed money or be bailed out. This will lead to taxpayers paying for mismanagement of poorly run states. States need to tighten up, make some cuts, and manage.”
Still, the looming clash over state and local government funding in the next relief bill could be ripe ground for Trump and Pelosi, following three years of sputtering negotiations, to agree on a massive infrastructure investment plan for roads, bridges, rural broadband access and other public works projects, which both have teased.
Reuters contributed to this report.