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Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended the Democrats' $3 trillion coronavirus relief proposal on Wednesday, telling AP in an interview that the pandemic is the "biggest disaster that our country has ever faced.”

The big picture: Pelosi said Congress needs to address the crisis "in a big way." She conceded the current proposal is a starting point for potential negotiations with President Trump and Republicans, who weren't involved in crafting the bill and have already soundly rejected it.

If passed, the bill would be the largest spending package in U.S. history. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday balked at the idea of adding to the national debt after Congress passed the $2 trillion CARES Act in March, saying he is "assessing the effectiveness of that before deciding to go forward."

  • "Well, it's interesting to see what they're saying, becoming now, renewing their fiscal hawk positions that they can barely remember. I have confidence in going big with what we do," Pelosi told MSNBC Monday.
  • "When I saw them give a $2 trillion addition to the national debt in order to give 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent, that was so irresponsible in terms of it did nothing for the economy except heap mountains of debt on our children," she added, referring to the 2017 Republican tax cut.

Between the lines: Pelosi received some backup for her spending wishes from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, who warned on Wednesday of long-term economic damage without additional stimulus. Powell has previously urged Pelosi to "think big" on stimulus while interest rates are near zero.

What she's saying: “The president calls it a war — we’re all warriors, that people are dying in the war. No these are family, and people are dying in the family.”

  • “The American people are worth it,” Pelosi added.

Go deeper

Rand Paul: No incentive to open economy "if you soften the amount of suffering"

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Fox News Wednesday that he opposes Congress passing more stimulus funding because "if you give people money and you make it less painful to be in a recession," governors "will not have an incentive" to reopen the economy.

Why it matters: Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked over the next coronavirus stimulus package. The Trump administration has said it is willing to pass a bill at a lower price tag than House Democrats' $3 trillion proposal, but some Republicans — like Paul and other deficit hawks — have said there is no need.

Pelosi says postmaster general won't commit to reversing USPS changes

Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called out Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Wednesday, saying his alleged suspension of operational changes and cost-cutting "is wholly insufficient and does not reverse damage already wreaked."

The big picture: Pelosi said that a conversation with DeJoy revealed the USPS has no intention of replacing the sorting machines, mailboxes and other mail infrastructure that has already been removed. On Tuesday, DeJoy promised to halt changes until after the 2020 election, a move Pelosi criticized as "misleading."

Scoop: Biden weighs retired general Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star general Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.