WASHINGTON (CN) — Pointing to low interest rates during the Covid-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump on Tuesday suggested lawmakers should turn their attention to passing a massive infrastructure bill in the next phase of coronavirus relief measures.
“With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill,” Trump tweeted. “It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4.”
Trump’s proposed price tag on a fourth injection of funds into the economy closely mirrors the roughly $2 trillion economic relief package signed into law last week in response to the pandemic. The president’s focus on job creation also comes days after the Labor Department reported a record 3.2 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a single week.
House Democrats signaled Monday another wave of economic relief measures would address parents, medical workers and patients, who might not have received enough assistance through previous legislation. Increasing hospital bed capacity, updating public drinking water systems and aiding the installment of rural broadband are some of the additional relief measures lawmakers look to fund. Accessibility to internet is especially a focus of Democrats as schools nationwide close for the year in response to the virus outbreak.
Republicans are skittish at the idea of funding a large infrastructure bill, wary Democrats might impose other unrelated measures in the same legislation. Trump has repeatedly called for major spending on basic infrastructure needs, such as roads and bridges.
Speaking Tuesday on conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said more time was needed before drafting a fourth relief package to gauge the impact of the first three stimulus bills.
“I’m not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items that they would not otherwise be able to pass,” he said.
While McConnell expressed reluctance to move quickly on new spending, Trump praised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Twitter earlier Tuesday for her appearance on the MSNBC talk show “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough.
“Actually, other than her usual complaining that I’m a terrible person, she wasn’t bad. Still praying!” Trump tweeted in an apparent attempt to gain bipartisan support for infrastructure spending.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Monday that Congress wouldn’t be returning to Washington until April 20. The Senate also signaled it would be out of D.C. for just as long after passing the third economic stimulus package last week. McConnell, though, said lawmakers would “stay nimble” and could return sooner.
The president’s proposal for $2 trillion in infrastructure spending comes a day after the governors of states bordering Washington, D.C., issued stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the virus. In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam ordered people to stay home until early June. As of Tuesday, more than 30 other states have issued similar orders.
Trump extended federal social distancing guidelines through the end April, after previously suggesting the country could return to business as usual by Easter Sunday, April 12.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 177,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and over 3,400 Americans have died from the respiratory disease, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.