WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House has halted talks with Congress over any further coronavirus stimulus package as it waits for more information about how U.S. state reopenings affect the economy, White House top economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters on Friday.
The Senate and House of Representatives have already passed four major bills to address the novel coronavirus outbreak, including three aimed at stabilizing the economy as most Americans have sheltered in place and unemployment has soared.
Democrats, who control the House, are pushing for a vote as soon as next week on another massive coronavirus relief bill that would include more money for state and local governments, coronavirus testing and the U.S. Postal Service.
They also have been arguing with Republicans over oversight of the trillions of dollars being disbursed by the federal government in response to the crisis, with Republicans charging that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a subcommittee on the crisis in order to attack President Donald Trump as he runs for re-election in November.
The panel made its first official action on Friday, sending letters demanding that large, public corporations immediately return taxpayer funds received under the bailout bills, which were intended for small businesses.
Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, told reporters that formal talks with Congress have paused for May.
“Well we just had another big infusion,” Kudlow said with regard to why there was a pause in talks.
In a separate interview on Bloomberg Television, he said the Trump administration was making contingency plans for a second wave of potential cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, including later shutdowns.
Public health officials have cautioned against a fast and widespread restart to economic activity, saying it could lead to a second spike in infections. The virus has killed nearly 76,000 Americans with more than 1.26 million confirmed cases, according to a Reuters tally.
The U.S. economy lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April as the unemployment rate surged to 14.7%, the Labor Department reported on Friday.
“No one could look at today’s jobs report, the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, and say we should hit the pause button on further government action,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “We need a big, bold approach now to support American workers and families.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Lisa Lambert and Patricia Zengerle, writing by Susan Heavey and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Chris Reese and Paul Simao)