May 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Why you shouldn't hold your breath for the next coronavirus stimulus bill

An illustration of someone grabbing a dollar
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't expect fast action on the next coronavirus stimulus package, known on Capitol Hill as "phase 4." Senior sources in the Republican Senate conference tell me that most GOP senators want to wait a bit before passing another big aid bill.

Between the lines: The two parties are miles apart ahead of the next stage of talks.

  • Mitch McConnell has sounded the alarm about the deficit after $3 trillion so far in virus spending.
  • In a conference call last week, McConnell urged Republican senators to push back against the White House's impulse to spend trillions on infrastructure.
  • Democrats want significantly more money to help state and local governments.
  • And McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy put out a rare joint statement in which they said they won't support another coronavirus bill unless it protects businesses from lawsuits should they choose to reopen during the pandemic.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed this idea: "Especially now, we have every reason to protect our workers and our patients in all of this. So we would not be inclined to be supporting any immunity from liability."

Yes, but: On CNN's "State of the Union," this morning, Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Jake Tapper, "There's kind of a pause period right now."

  • Kudlow added: "We have put up $3 trillion of direct federal budget assistance in one way or another. The Federal Reserve has actually put in as much as $4 trillion to $6 trillion. So it's a huge, huge package. Let's see how it's doing as we gradually reopen the economy."

Behind the scenes: One idea that's gathering momentum on the Hill and in the White House: legislation that would encourage American companies to build critical supply chains at home, reducing foreign dependency — especially on pharmaceuticals from China.

  • In an April 26 Medium post, McCarthy floated some such ideas to hasten the relocation of the drug supply chains:
"[T]he government needs to implement a bold deregulatory agenda that makes it faster and cheaper to build manufacturing plants. Currently, it takes 5 to 7 years to build a plant. ... Our national goal should be to bring that to less than 18 months by streamlining permitting and cutting red tape."
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