Politics and Government

Pelosi to bring coronavirus bill to House floor Thursday

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discusses coronavirus legislation during her weekly briefing Thursday on Capitol Hill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discusses coronavirus legislation during her weekly briefing Thursday on Capitol Hill.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 12:56 p.m. ET

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House will vote Thursday on a package of measures to address the coronavirus despite pushback from the top House Republican that the bill "comes up short."

"It's about putting families first," Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

"There will be other initiatives that we want to work with administration on that may be necessary as we go forward," she said. "Some that need more discussion."

Her remarks appeared to revive the bill that seemed to be on hold amid a push for changes from the administration and resistance from congressional Republicans. Pelosi said House Democrats had been negotiating with the White House throughout the morning.

"We're dealing with Democrats in Congress, we'll see what can be done," President Trump said during any exchange with reporters Thursday. He said Democrats had included "goodies" in their bill "that have nothing to do with what we're talking about," but he did not give details.

Earlier Thursday, the panel that sets rules for floor debate paused its meeting as Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., announced Pelosi was discussing provisions with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

"He has some suggestions that we are going to evaluate to see whether these are things that we are going to agree on," McGovern said.

Pelosi's spokesman tweeted that the speaker and treasury secretary talked twice about language for the bill.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California told reporters the measure "comes up short." He said proposals in the Democratic measure such as sick leave would take six months to implement.

He said that the White House, Republicans and the speaker's office were working together and that lawmakers should postpone their recess by 24 to 48 hours in order to reach a deal.

"Let's do what we can do together right now," he said.

"We don't need 48 hours," Pelosi said. "We just need to decide to help families right now."

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole complained that the bill wasn't released until late Wednesday night and has had "zero Republican input."

"Nobody's prepared to be rolled," Cole said, adding, House Republicans weren't ready to back the bill and indicated it would have trouble getting the support of GOP senators.

The measure includes paid sick leave, which Pelosi called "very essential," unemployment assistance, nutrition aid and help with states.

The virus affected Capitol Hill directly as a staffer to Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell became the first known confirmed case of coronavirus on the campus. The aide has been in isolation since developing symptoms, and the Democratic senator has closed her office for cleaning, according to a statement. The aide had "no known contact with the senator or other members of Congress," the statement released Wednesday evening said.

The top House and Senate law enforcement officials announced Thursday that there would be a temporary closures of all tours of the Capitol. They also said the Capitol building and House and Senate office buildings would be limited to members, staff, press and official visitors starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday. The measures are in effect until April 1.

Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton announced his Washington office would be closed. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who self-quarantined after he was exposed at a conference to someone who tested positive for the virus, also closed his Washington office.

NPR Kelsey Snell and Claudia Grisales contributed to this report

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