House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a creature of habit, and decades in Congress have taught her how to take advantage of any situation.
In the first stimulus bill for the coronavirus pandemic she, and her Democrat colleagues, were able to jam a ton of their agenda in to get funded.
But now, as there is more time to prepare the next bill, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told her to forget it.
“She needs to stand down on the notion that we’re going to go along with taking advantage of the crisis to do things that are unrelated to the crisis,” he said.
But Pelosi is not having any of it and vowed to carry on with her progressive agenda when it is time for the next bill.
“The victims of the coronavirus pandemic cannot wait,” she said.
“It is moving faster than the leader may have suspected, and even he has said that some things should wait for the next bill. I hope that we can work in a four corners manner for the common good,” she said.
“Four corners” is a reference to the four leaders of Congress: the speaker, the Senate majority leader, and the two minority leaders.
McConnell said his caution on pursuing infrastructure amid the pandemic is driven by his concerns about how Congress would pay for another wave of federal spending — and his position contrasts with President Trump’s plea for a $2 trillion infrastructure package to be part of the next congressional response.
“We do have to be mindful of how to pay for it. There has been a lot of fantasizing on both sides about massive packages,” she said.
“We’d all love to do it, but there is the reality of how you pay for it. We just passed a $2 trillion bill, and it would take a lot of convincing to convince me that we should do transportation in a way that’s not credibly paid for after what we just passed last week,” she said.
Citing extraordinarily low-interest rates that have reduced the cost of federal borrowing, Trump said on Tuesday that now “is the time” to push forward with infrastructure legislation in response to the severe economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
Pelosi told reporters on a Wednesday conference call that her plan is “probably in the same ballpark” as Trump’s. She outlined a proposal that would add $10 billion for health centers and housing programs on top of the $760 billion infrastructure plan House Democrats unveiled in January, which includes major transportation and water projects, among other provisions.
In the interview, McConnell also defended his claim Tuesday that the House impeachment of Trump and the Senate trial in January “diverted the attention of the government” in its response to the novel coronavirus.
“I certainly devoted a little bit of time to thinking about it,” the president said of the remark. “I don’t think I would have done any better had I not been impeached.”
McConnell explained that he believes that Congress was distracted by impeachment and that affected preparedness.
“We were all kind of preoccupied, I’m talking about the Congress side,” the Leader said. “The administration can speak for itself.”