Dems Want Broadband in Next Virus Stimulus Bill

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Days after passage of a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, Key House Democrats are planning efforts for the next round of emergency aid, including major investments in infrastructure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), joined by several key committee chairs, said this week the Democrats’ fourth phase of coronavirus stimulus would be largely focused on helping the front-line medical workers, homebound parents and patients afflicted by the deadly virus. Democrats are also eyeing new funding for broadband, water, schools and other infrastructure systems that have proven insufficient, they said, in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

“There are infrastructure needs that our country has that directly relate to how we are proceeding with the coronavirus,” Pelosi said on a call with reporters, reported The Hill. “And we would like to see in what comes next, something that has always been nonpartisan, bipartisan, and that is an infrastructure piece that takes us into the future.”

Such a funding boost would not only promote public health by updating systems like telemedicine and public drinking water, they said, it would also create jobs and provide a shot in the arm for an economy devastated by the virus.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) said the crisis has “bared a lot of inadequacies” in rural broadband. “If you don’t have access to the internet you can’t do telemedicine and you can’t learn when you’re not going to school in person,” he said.

It remains to be seen if Republicans, who control both the Senate and the White House, will embrace the push for a broad infrastructure expansion as part of the next round of coronavirus stimulus. The Democrats cited President Donald Trump’s recent interest. Trump said Tuesday he would like a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to be part of the phase four coronavirus bill. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarty (R-CA) has recently questioned if Congress, after passing three phases of emergency relief, needs to act again at all. “I’m not sure we need a fourth package,” McCarthy told Fox News.

It’s also unclear when Congress would act on a new coronavirus stimulus bill. Senate Republican leaders recessed the upper chamber last week until at least the week of April 20, and House Democrats adopted the same timeline.

But as the number of coronavirus cases skyrockets — and as more lawmakers have tested positive in recent days — party leaders are leaving open the possibility the break could run even longer. “We don’t know how many weeks we’ll be out,” Pelosi said.

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