President Trump conceded Monday that the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package he approved includes wasteful spending by both parties, while battle lines formed in Congress over the size of a looming fourth government aid plan as troubles with the economy mounted.
The president said the emergency aid plan for workers and businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic includes “crazy” spending unrelated to the pandemic, which he attributed mostly to Democrats but said he had no choice but to go along with it.
“This is the Democrats, that’s the way they play,” Mr. Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” “We need their votes. They have the House. We had to take care of people.”
The package includes $75 million for the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, $25 million for the Kennedy Center (which, nevertheless, announced it is laying off 100 musicians), and $37 million for the Forest Service (including $3 million for “forest and rangeland research”). There’s also big chunks for federal agencies, such as $60 million for NASA, under the vague guidance to prepare for the pandemic.
There are also add-ons unrelated to the pandemic that appear to have come from Republicans, such as a $500,000 water project in Utah and a provision to speed up FDA review of sunscreen products. The latter issue had previously passed the Senate on a 91-2 vote.
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, called the extraneous items “spending porn.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is signaling that Democrats want more spending in a fourth bill to address the health care and economic needs created by the pandemic.
She said states need far more than the $150 billion in the current rescue package, as well as more money for personal protective equipment, a further expansion of family leave, more coverage for doctors’ office visits, and more money for hospitals, despite Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer calling the current $130 billion in aid for hospitals a new “Marshall Plan.”
“This bill was just a down payment,” she said.
Mrs. Pelosi also said Monday that tougher OSHA protections for workers will be a top priority for the next bill.
“Legislation is required. It’s been blocked three times,” she told reporters. “If we fail to act, it will make the situation more dangerous.”
And she called for an “infrastructure component” including broadband and clean water projects in the next bill, and more direct payments such as the $1,200 checks going out to most Americans in less than three weeks.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, has been downplaying talk of a fourth rescue bill, saying Congress should first allow the current package to have an impact.
But the president has said he is open to more aid if needed. And more bad economic developments were mounting by the day.
Macy’s said Monday it would furlough the majority of its 130,000 employees because it had lost “the majority” of its sales following store closures.
The company, which also operates Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury, said the store closures that began March 18 would persist until the retailer had a “clear line of sight on when it is safe to reopen.”
It said most of its employees will be furloughed this week, and it will maintain the “absolute minimum work force needed to maintain basic operations,” according to a statement. Digital business at call centers and distribution centers won’t be as hard hit.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit retailers across the country, as authorities close stores and other operations considered non-essential.
“At least through May, furloughed colleagues who are enrolled in health benefits will continue to receive coverage with the company covering 100% of the premium,” Macy’s said in a statement. “We expect to bring colleagues back on a staggered basis as business resumes.”
But stocks rose again Monday after the White House extended social distancing guidelines through the end of April in an effort to control the pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 690 points, or 3.1%, to close at 22,327. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq each rose more than 3%.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said loans for small businesses under the rescue package will be available at most banks and Small Business Administration lenders starting on Friday, a timetable that he called “lightning speed.”
“This is a very popular program with Republicans and Democrats, and the president likes it a lot,” Mr. Mnuchin said on Fox Business. “So if we run out of money, and this is a huge success, we will absolutely go back to Congress and ask for more money.”
He said the program “makes economic sense because every person we put through this program, we don’t have to pay unemployment insurance.”
The president said the health and safety of Americans must take precedence over the economy.
“It’s so bad for the economy, but the economy is No. 2 on my list. First, I want to save a lot of lives,” Mr. Trump said.
χ Gabriella Muñoz and David Sherfinski contributed to this article.