States, cities seek $1T to avoid layoffs from virus: Speaker Pelosi

Speaker Pelosi


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that state and local governments are seeking up to 1 trillion for coronavirus costs, a stunning benchmark for the next aid package that's certain to run into opposition from Senate Republicans.

Pelosi acknowledged the federal government may not be able to provide that much.

But she said money for heroes is needed to prevent layoffs as governors and mayors stare down red ink in their budgets.

Many jurisdictions are facing rising costs from the health pandemic and plummeting revenues in the economic shutdown. The best way Americans can support front-line community workers, Pelosi said, is to make sure they don't lose their jobs to budget cuts.

This is something of the highest priority," Pelosi said. It honors our heroes. Nurses, transit bus drivers and other workers "are risking their lives to save lives, and now they're going to lose their jobs, she said.

The 1 trillion price tag comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shifted his tone, suggesting he is open to considering additional funds in the next coronavirus relief bill.

But the eye-popping figure would be on top of the nearly 3 trillion Congress has already approved to salvage the economy and confront the health crisis.

At the White House, President Donald Trump said, We'll see what happens. Trump said, "If we do that, we'll have to get something for it.

Congress is partially reopening next week as the House convenes key committee hearings and the Senate gavels into session after being shuttered for more than a month during the pandemic.

But the legislative branch will be a changed place.

Senators are recommended to wear masks, keep 6 feet apart, and have most staff work from home, according to official guidance. At the private Republican lunches, it will be just three senators to a table. Democrats will have lunch by conference call.

Senators are raising alarms about the health risks of resuming operations.

On a conference call Thursday, the Capitol physician said his office does not have a testing system available for instant virus checks, as happens at the White House, according to a Republican familiar with the call with chiefs of staff.

Instead, the physician said the office only checks those lawmakers who are showing symptoms. Test results take up to seven days, he told them.

Notably, key public hearings may not have many members of the public, under guidance from the Senate Rules Committee that says people can view the proceedings online.

Officials are especially concerned about the hundreds of cooks, custodial staff, and maintenance workers needed to run the vast Capitol complex for the 100 senators.

The House declined this week to bring its 430 members back into session after the Capitol physician warned it was not worth the health risks. McConnell has declined to say if he consulted with the physician in deciding to resume Senate operations.

As the new aid package takes shape, McConnell said Thursday on Fox that he's willing to consider money for the states but isn't about to send federal dollars to bail out overspending.

We're not interested in borrowing money from future generations to send down to states to help them with bad decisions they made in the past unrelated to the coronavirus epidemic, the GOP leader said.

McConnell insists any fresh funding must be tied to liability reforms to prevent what he calls an epidemic of lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, and businesses reopening in the pandemic.

In meeting with Trump at the White House, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said his state alone may need 20 billion to 30 billion.

This is a big hit, Murphy said. We don't see it as a bailout." Economic wreckage from the coronavirus outbreak threatens McConnell's own home state as well.

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