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'Think big' Pelosi says it would be 'penny foolish' to stop coronavirus stimulus spending

McCarthy tries pumping the brakes on more coronavirus stimulus, says Congress already allocated $7 trillion

Published: May 7, 2020 10:52am

Updated: May 29, 2020 6:41pm

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that it would be "penny foolish" for Congress to stop coronavirus stimulus spending, despite the rising national debt, and called on lawmakers to "think big."

While Democrats work on a new "Rooseveltian" size coronavirus package, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said that Congress should allow the $7 trillion already allocated for coronavirus relief to be fully implemented before acting on another stimulus package.

"Before we look at any new package, I think we should make sure we implement the $3 trillion that we have just passed along with the other $4 trillion that the Federal Reserve has put in – $7 trillion into our economy. Let's make sure that is implemented correctly before we take up any new bill, let's have hearings," The California Republican said during a press conference. 

"Let's have the information and data come back to us to see if there's a need. As states open up, they'll be a difference of what's needed today than is needed tomorrow and I'm willing to look at all that," he added.

The Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in late March as the third phase coronavirus economic relief. Pelosi has estimated the next package would exceed $1 trillion. 

The total national debt has surpassed $25 trillion. Pelosi was asked on Thursday how much the national debt weighs on her as she considers further federal coronavirus spending.

"As a matter of course, when we're doing what we're doing, we should find a way to offset additional spending or get revenue to pay for it because the debt is an important challenge," she replied. "What we're talking about now is a stimulus to our economy at a time when people are crippled with concern about their physical well-being as well as their economic well-being."

Pelosi continued, "Yes, I'm concerned about the national debt but I think it would be penny foolish to say 'sorry, we can't do SNAP to give you food because there's a national debt. We just did $2 trillion for the wealthiest people in our country but we can't feed 1 in 4 children in our country.'"

Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told her to "think big" during the pandemic.

"Interest rates are very, very low, think big and that's what we're doing," she said.

McCarthy said the government has already spent $500 billion on state aid during the pandemic. He noted that Congress normally spends about $600 billion annually on the Medicare program. He expressed concern that any further state aid would not get to the cities and counties that need it most.

"I would like to look at this differently. Let's let the cities and counties put grants in directly into the federal government," he said. "It goes into the classroom not to the administration." 

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that the Democrats are considering a "Rooseveltian"-level fourth coronavirus package focused on state and local assistance. Other items discussed as part of the Democrats' plan include rent assistance, universal broadband, infrastructure upgrades and more direct stimulus payments.

“We need action here to help average folks. We’ve done some in the House and Senate, we need to do a lot more," he said.




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