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It was a long, hard fight to get the third coronavirus legislation published, so it's a little surprising that lawmakers are jumping right back into the fray to do it all over again. The House Democrats are crafting a fourth coronavirus package that will hand more direct payments to individuals and will also provide money for state and local governments and funding for infrastructure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke on the phone with reporters on Monday and said House Democrats will be creating legislation while they remain in their districts for much of April. The plan is to vote on it when the House returns.
However, because of the daily changes in the impact of coronavirus COVID-19, the exact date of when the House will return is up in the air. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a notice to House members that no votes are expected before April 20.
"We're not coming back for a few weeks, but I do think we can be working on our committee work in the meantime," said the speaker during the call. "I think it is really important that as soon as we are here, we are ready to pass legislation."
Pelosi doesn't expect to have the bill finalized before the House returns. It will take even longer if it passes to be approved by the Senate, judging by the arguments over last week's coronavirus bill that totals $2.2 million and will be giving paychecks to many American individuals and companies. Monday, Democrats were already taking a look at which policies the House Republicans may have a problem with.
"If something is needed in the future, let's make that decision, but let's not make that decision without allowing these bills to be put into the economy," added Hoyer.
Democrats are jumping into this discussion early about what they want to see in the next legislation. Pelosi, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Rep Frank Pallone (D-NJ) began laying out what Democrat demands will be for this next bill.
They'd like to see more direct payments go to individuals and pass "significantly more" money to state and local governments, while also adding funding for hospitals and nursing homes.
With the last legislation, it gave a check for $1,200 to each American who makes under a certain amount and who also passes other requirements. It also sends money to small and large businesses in the form of loans. This time Democrats would like to eliminate prior exemptions large employers have with paid sick leave and family leave.
With this next bill, they'd also like it to take care of hospitals and their needs. They want protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, provided for. They also want to ensure coronavirus treatments will be free, not just testing.
Democrats are requesting an emergency Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard be required to protect health-care workers and other workers who are at risk. This includes TSA employees, first responders, and grocery-store employees.
Also on the wants list is an infrastructure piece to address water systems, broadband, and 5G, which Pelosi noted are "essential to preparing our country for what we're engaged in now further and what comes next."
While the last bill classified Washington, D.C. as a territory and not a state, House Democrats would like the fourth bill to address what impact that will have on funding for the District.
"If we fail to act, we'll be making the situation even more dangerous," said Pelosi, adding that Democrats are working on "collecting information, taking inventory" of the needs that may need to be addressed by Congress later down the line.
Pelosi stressed that Democrats want the next coronavirus response bill to be bipartisan. Pallone and Scott are committee chairs and will be involved in the drafting of the legislation and report that they are in communication with the top Republicans from those committees.
"We're in touch with Republican colleagues. Obviously, there will be some differences, but to the extent that we can cooperate, we will," said Scott, the Education and Labor Committee chair. "When we reconvene, the bill should be in pretty good shape for presentation."
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