WASHINGTON — As the toll of the coronavirus continues to rise, lawmakers and administration officials are turning their focus to what more is needed to counter the pandemic and protect a battered economy.
Officials are beginning to outline elements of another government relief package to add to the federal response, only days after Trump signed into law a $2 trillion economic stimulus, the largest in American history.
“We have a list of issues that are immediate — that have a short fuse,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a nearly 40-minute telephone interview Monday from her office in the Capitol. She ticked off a list of Democratic priorities, including increased protections and equipment for workers on the front lines of the coronavirus, expanded paid leave, a major new infrastructure investment, and additional funds for state and local governments.
“This isn’t about how fast we can do it,” she added. “It’s how fast we must do it.”
It is not clear how quickly such a bill could materialize — Republican leaders and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, have said they are not yet certain that more help would be needed, or when — but in outlining her plans Monday, Pelosi made it clear that the path to any further government assistance would run through her office, and that Democrats would press for another large package sooner rather than later.
By Monday afternoon, more than half of the 50 states were under a directive to remain at home, meaning that roughly 3 out of 4 Americans are or will soon be asked to avoid leaving their homes as part of a broad effort to stall the spread of the virus.
Virginia and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, issued new orders on Monday for residents to stay home. And in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who had resisted a statewide edict, said he would sign a directive codifying a patchwork of local rules urging residents in the densely-populated southeast corner of the state — including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties — to stay at home.
In Washington, Pelosi and other officials involved in previous negotiations have acknowledged that it is unlikely that any legislation to address the crisis would be ready for a floor vote before mid-April, with both the House and Senate in recess and not scheduled to return to Capitol Hill until April 20.
Some officials involved in the talks, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, have suggested there may be no need for another round of government relief. Mnuchin, who had previously said he expected a second round of direct payments to Americans would be needed, also said Sunday that he hoped it would not be needed.
Even before the $2 trillion stimulus measure was complete, Pelosi had begun laying the groundwork for a far-reaching fourth measure, including at a ceremony right after the legislation passed the House.
In the interview Monday, Pelosi emphasized the need to secure more equipment for health workers on the front lines, known as personal protective equipment, and ventilators for hospitals.
She said Democrats would most likely revisit a push to boost pensions and medical leave provisions, and would work to ensure that other aspects of treatment for the coronavirus, beyond the initial test, would be covered by the government.