On the heels of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus emergency relief package, House Democratic leaders are hatching another measure to increase funding for hard-hit states, expand paid leave for home-bound workers and ensure ample supplies for front-line medical workers. However, the cornerstone of the Democratic legislation would be a massive investment in infrastructure.
“What we’ve done so far has mitigated some of the damage,” says Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio. “But we’re going to need a longer-term recovery package and be more resilient in the future.”
President Trump this week promoted the concept of a $2 trillion infrastructure measure. However, congressional Republican leaders haven’t warmed to the prospective legislation. They say time is needed to assess the impact of the unprecedented emergency relief package.
DeFazio disagrees. “This is investment, this is capital. We can justify this more than tax cuts. We can justify this even more than some of the mitigation we did in [phase three]. The multiplier effect is extraordinary.”
All signs suggest Democrats plan to press ahead with what would be the fourth piece of legislation in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Early indications Democrats will build on the ambitious $760 billion infrastructure proposal unveiled in January by DeFazio. His proposal included investments in highways, high-speed rail, public transportation, airports, water and sewer systems and broadband networks. The emerging plan may add investments in health care, housing and educational infrastructure to address serious gaps exposed by the coronavirus pandemic. One idea that has bubbled to the surface calls for $10 billion for community health centers. The proposal also may include more rounds of direct payments to moderate and lower-income Americans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, “We need to invest in our infrastructure to address some of the critical impacts and vulnerabilities in America that have been laid bare by the coronavirus. We can create millions of good-paying jobs building the infrastructure and by strengthening commerce and reducing air pollution that harms the public health.”
The just enacted emergency relief measure was drafted and orchestrated by the Trump White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats were reduced to using their leverage to influence the relief package at the edges. The fourth emergency relief package may have a very different political dynamic, with Trump, who pledged in his 2016 campaign to push for an infrastructure measure, and House Democrats negotiating the framework of the legislation. The trick may be finding a sweet spot that Senate Republicans can accept to avoid having a House-passed relief measure stall in the GOP-controlled upper chamber.