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Congress, WH Reach High for Next Bill  04/07 06:07

   Congressional leaders are jolting ahead with another coronavirus  rescue 
package as President Donald Trump indicated that Americans will need more aid 
during the stark pandemic and economic shutdown.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional leaders are jolting ahead with another 
coronavirus  rescue package as President Donald Trump indicated that Americans 
will need more aid during the stark pandemic and economic shutdown.

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said another $1 trillion is needed, beyond the 
just-passed $2.2 trillion effort. She wants another round of direct payments to 
Americans and more money for companies to keep making payroll. Senate Majority 
Leader Mitch McConnell has said in recent days  that health care should top the 
list, signaling his intent to get to work on a new bill. 

   "We're going to take good care of our people," Trump said Monday at his 
daily White House briefing. "It was not their fault."

   It's a rare sign of emerging consensus as Washington responds to the public 
health emergency and severe economic fallout  that is ransacking communities 
nationwide, a crisis on par with a war effort or the Great Depression.

   The contours of the package are still being debated and any votes in 
Congress remain a logistical conundrum. The House and Senate adjourned for most 
of the month, as part of strict stay-at-home orders from public health 
officials to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.

   On an afternoon conference call with House Democrats, Pelosi told lawmakers 
at least another $1 trillion would be needed, according to a person 
unauthorized to discuss the call and granted anonymity.

   The California Democrat has vowed to put the next package together in time 
for a House vote this month.

   Former Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen joined the private call and warned 
Democrats the economic fallout will depend on the public health response to the 
pandemic, the person said. As businesses shutter to stop the virus' spread, it 
has hurled the U.S. economy toward a recession.

   Yellen said it was impossible to know how deep and long the recession would 
be, and added that it would depend on the health response.

   The former Fed chair also told them the nation's unemployment rate is now at 
least 13% and this week's jobless report will show higher numbers than last 
week's. 

   Yellen said she expects a 30 percent contraction of GDP this year, but has 
seen models as high as 50 percent, according to a Democratic aide unauthorized 
to discuss the call and granted anonymity. 

   The earlier relief package, approved in late March, included one-time $1,200 
direct payments to Americans, along with forgivable small business loans for 
companies to keep making payroll. It also included a boost of unemployment pay, 
money for hospitals and a $500 billion fund for bigger corporations and 
industries.

   Pelosi told Democrats said the $1,200 direct payments to Americans and the 
paycheck protection program for small businesses are not enough and more needs 
to be done, the person said.

   She also said there needs to be more aid through the Supplemental Nutrition 
Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

   Trump has favored direct checks to Americans, and gave a nod to another 
round in the next package. 

   "It is absolutely under serious consideration," he said.

   The shifts from the political leaders are stark amid what officials warn 
could be one of the toughest weeks for the country, as the number of confirmed 
cases and deaths climbs.

   McConnell told The Associated Press on Friday that there will be another 
package and health care must be at the "top of the list."

   McConnell, R-Ky., said Congress should focus on correcting any shortcomings 
in the earlier $2.2 trillion aid bill and rely on health care experts for 
solutions to "wipe out" the virus.

   Pelosi, D-Calif., last week also backed off her more sweeping proposals for 
an infrastructure package to put people back to work, focusing on the more 
immediate health care and economic needs.

   As governors plead for federal intervention to provide hard-hit hospitals in 
New York and elsewhere with vital medical ventilators, equipment and supplies, 
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called for a better-coordinated effort 
to care for the many sick people.

   Schumer told reporters on a conference call Monday that he's urging the 
White House to appoint a single, well-qualified "czar" to handle both the 
production and distribution of medical supplies and equipment to fight the 
pandemic. 

   Right now, Schumer said, governors and other officials have no choice but to 
search out materials helter-skelter.

   "Everyone's hunting and pecking for the equipment and the supplies they 
need," he said. "It's just not working. It's like a scavenger hunt for their 
lives." 

   Schumer, D-N.Y., said he spoke to both Vice President Mike Pence and new 
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and suggested three potential 
candidates for the job: two former vice chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
retired Air Force Gen. Paul Selva and retired Adm. James A. Winnefield, and 
retired Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek, former director of the Defense Logistics 
Agency.

   Trump, displeased with Schumer's effort, accused the senator of being 
overtly political.

   This would be the fourth package from Congress since the start of the virus 
outbreak. Two initial efforts were followed by the third last month, which was 
by far the largest, the most ambitious of its kind in U.S. history. With so 
much federal aid expected to be pushed so quickly to the public, Congress is 
also trying to swiftly stand up oversight panels.

   Pelosi late last week announced the formation of a House select committee 
with subpoena power to monitor the decision-making and cash flow.

   A broader oversight board is being formed to track the Treasury Department's 
dispersal of the aid to businesses, particularly the more than $500 billion in 
corporate and industry aid under Secretary Steven Mnuchin's discretion.

   Schumer named a top economic adviser to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Bharat 
Ramamurti, as his choice for the pandemic response accountabilty committee 
established by recently passed legislation.


(KR)

 
 
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