U.S. House, Senate leaders split on need for more coronavirus legislation


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The nation’s top two congressional leaders were divided on Tuesday over the need for more legislation to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus crisis after three earlier bills were approved, including a $2 trillion economic relief measure.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers needed to take up a fourth coronavirus-related bill to focus on recovery in the aftermath of the outbreak, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged a “wait-and-see” approach.

“I hope that in this next bill that we will be able to address the concerns of our state and local governments. That is absolutely essential. We need to do more,” Pelosi, a Democrat, told MSNBC in an interview.

McConnell, speaking on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated program, said policymakers should instead wait to see how the crisis unfolded in coming days and weeks before jumping on further legislation.

Congress has already passed three bills this month tackling the coronavirus as the fast-spreading and potentially fatal disease hit the nation: a $8.3 billion package on testing and research, a $100 billion bill addressing paid sick days, unemployment benefits and food aid; and a roughly $2 trillion economic relief package that passed last week.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” the Republican Senate leader said, adding that lawmakers first need to see the effect of the latest recovery measure aimed at shoring up the economic freefall in the wake of massive closures aimed at stemming the outbreak.

“Let’s see how things are going and respond accordingly,” he said, adding that lawmakers were not scheduled to return to session until April 20. “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.”

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday also said he did not know whether more legislation is needed yet, even as Pelosi said the Democratic-controlled House planned to move forward.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu, editing by Louise Heavens and Jonathan Oatis