Pelosi scales back coronavirus infrastructure proposal

Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is scaling back her sweeping  coronavirus infrastructure proposal, saying that things like improvements to drinking water systems and expanded access to broadband may have to wait.

In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Pelosi emphasized that the legislative package should be focused on expanding the key pillars of last week’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue measure: more funding for direct payments to individuals, unemployment insurance, small-business loans and protective equipment for doctors and other medical professionals.

“Right now, I think that we have a good model. It was bipartisan, it was signed by the president. But it’s not enough,” Pelosi told CNBC host Jim Cramer.

She added that some components of her infrastructure proposal may not make the cut.

“While I’m very much in favor of doing some things we need to do to meet the needs — clean water, more broadband, the rest of that — that may have to be for a bill beyond this,” Pelosi said.

Her comments mark a notable shift. The Speaker has been promoting a massive infrastructure package as a commonsense next step in the recovery strategy — one that would not only address some of the immediate structural insufficiencies highlighted by the pandemic, like access to clean drinking water and universal broadband, but also create thousands of jobs.

“We need the clean water that is in our bill; we need the broadband so that we can address people’s needs in telemedicine and the rest. … We need more community health centers — that is in addition to our original bill. And we need mobility, we need people to get to work, product to market, produce to people’s tables,” she told reporters on a conference call Thursday. “So these provisions are directly related to the coronavirus crisis that we face.”

That idea got a big boost when Trump endorsed trillions in infrastructure spending to help rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges while creating jobs amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

But record-breaking unemployment numbers over the past two weeks appear to have changed Pelosi’s mind. While she had hoped to move straight to the economic recovery, Pelosi suggested Friday that the nation is still very much in emergency mode.

“The numbers are devastating: 6.6 million initial unemployment claims, 700,000 jobs lost in the March jobs report, more than 245,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,000 dead,” Pelosi said in a statement after her CNBC interview.

“The acceleration of the coronavirus demands that we double down on the downpayment we made in CARES by passing a CARES 2 package,” she added. “We must extend and expand this bipartisan legislation to meet the needs of the American people.”

Infrastructure, she said, can be part of the recovery effort later.

“As we fight the virus day to day,” Pelosi said, “we must work on an infrastructure package for recovery that addresses some of the critical impacts and vulnerabilities in America that have been laid bare by the coronavirus.”

Mike Lillis contributed.

Updated at 1:09 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Infrastructure Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi

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