As the coronavirus pandemic leaves thousands of Americans dead and roils the economy, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging Congress to move on the next phase of coronavirus relief legislation. In an interview with MSNBC on Monday evening, Pelosi said there is a "monumental" need for the next legislative package, with a focus on helping struggling Americans and cash-strapped states and localities.
"We have a big need. It's monumental. And therefore, it's a great opportunity to say: let's work together to get this done. There's a way to open the economy based on science, testing, testing, testing and let's get on with it. That's what we're here to do," Pelosi told MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested it is unnecessary to immediately begin work on a new aid package. He said during an appearance at a livestream event for the Trump campaign that he intends to "hit pause" on coronavirus relief funds.
"We now have a debt the size of our economy," he noted. "So I've said, and the president has said as well, that we have to take a pause here and take a look at what we've done."
Congress in March passed three massive legislative packages to offer coronavirus relief, including a $2 trillion package which expanded unemployment insurance and created a loan program for small businesses. In April, Congress passed an interim bill to bolster funding for the loans, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, which quickly ran out of funds.
Governors and mayors across the country have called for financial assistance from the federal government. Pelosi suggested on Monday that the next legislative package include assistance for states and localities, as well as hazard pay for frontline health care workers.
"To those who would suggest a pause, I'll say the hunger doesn't take a pause. The rent doesn't take a pause. The hardship doesn't take a pause," Pelosi told Hayes on Monday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Democratic colleagues in a conference call Monday that the House could return to Washington to consider legislation as soon as Friday. The House is unlikely to reconvene before Friday.
McConnell and House Republicans have previously indicated that they would want to see liability protections for businesses and health care employers in the next phase of coronavirus relief legislation.