Washington — House Democrats unveiled a proposal Wednesday to bolster the country’s infrastructure to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, in what would be “phase four” of the congressional response to the outbreak.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters in a conference call that the House’s “interest in infrastructure has always been bipartisan.” The plan builds upon a framework first introduced by Democrats in January, which would cost an estimated $760 billion over five years.
“It’s never been partisan and we don’t intend for it to be partisan now,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said the cost of the proposal would likely be close to the original figure, plus an extra $10 billion to invest in community health centers. The other priorities outlined in the proposal include ensuring access to clean drinking water, investing in expanded broadband service and funding new infrastructure projects. The proposal also includes “buy American” provisions to ensure investment in U.S. companies.
Pelosi said the proposal was “legislatively ready to go,” but added that the House could not vote on the proposal until it reconvenes in late April.
“I think we come back April 20, God willing and coronavirus willing. But shortly thereafter we should be able to move forward,” Pelosi said. President Trump extended guidelines telling Americans to stay at home until April 30 earlier this week.
Mr. Trump has also called on Congress to consider an infrastructure package, tweeting on Tuesday that the bill should cost $2 trillion “and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!”
However, Republicans have been wary about crafting new coronavirus legislation so soon after Mr. Trump signed three relief bills in March, including the massive $2.2 trillion package finalized last week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that any phase four legislation passed in the House would not get far in the upper chamber.
“I’m not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items they wouldn’t otherwise be able to pass,” McConnell said.
The proposal unveiled by House Democrats comes after the White Housethat its own modeling shows between 100,000 and 240,000 people are expected to die before the crisis is over, even if Americans heed social distancing guidelines.