Pelosi says she doesn't think 'we've seen the end of direct payments,' calls for fourth coronavirus bill

Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed confidence Thursday that her chamber will pass the third coronavirus relief bill on Friday, she’s already focused on writing a fourth phase of aid and suggested that in a future measure, Congress might consider providing more direct payments to Americans.

“I don't think we've seen the end of direct payments,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Pelosi said Americans are eager to receive the direct payments provided by the third relief bill, which the Senate passed late Wednesday and the House will consider on Friday. She pointed out that the version Democrats crafted for the third legislative aid bill would have provided “bigger direct payments.”

The speaker said, “I anticipate and feel certain that we will have a strong bipartisan vote” on the third aid bill that passed out of the Senate unanimously. But she added, “We have to do more.”

Pelosi said House Democrats plan to take the lead on the fourth installment of economic and health care relief, although she added that any negotiations should include the GOP leadership of the House and Senate, as well as Senate Democratic leadership.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin served as lead negotiators on the third stimulus bill.

For the fourth legislative package, Democrats have said they would like to see increased food stamp benefits; increased coverage for coronavirus testing, visits to the doctor and treatment; more money for state and local governments, including Washington, D.C.; expanded family and medical leave; pension fixes; and stronger workplace protections.

Pelosi said that Democrats had a proposal on pensions that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had indicated Congress could address in a fourth measure.

The speaker also said the third bill, she said, treats Washington, D.C., in a “discriminatory way” because it deals with the nation’s capital as a territory rather than a state, therefore depriving it of funds that other states are receiving.

Pelosi warned that the coronavirus crisis will only continue and get worse if people ignore the recommendations from science and medical experts.

“If we do not heed the advice of the scientific community about isolation and avoiding as much communal contact as possible … then the light at the end of the tunnel may be a train," she said.