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White House taking a 'pause' on stimulus aid, officials say

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow says

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow says doling out more federal aid is on hold for now. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Sunday said the Trump Administration was taking a “pause” on pushing Congress for additional coronavirus relief packages as President Donald Trump’s senior advisers await the economic impact of nearly $3 trillion in stimulus dollars that have been approved by Congress so far.

Kudlow, asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” if there would be a new stimulus bill, and whether he believed that bill should include funding for hard hit state and local governments, said “there may well be additional legislation,” before noting “there's kind of a pause period right now.”

“We have put up $3 trillion of direct federal budget assistance in one way or another,” Kudlow said of the money approved by Congress. “The Federal Reserve has actually put inasmuch as $4 [to] $6, trillion. So it's a huge, huge package. Let's see how it's doing as we gradually reopen the economy.”

Kudlow’s remarks came a day after White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told Fox News there “is a chance” a fourth phase of relief may not be necessary, despite Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other governors calling for federal aid to help replenish state and local budgets that have been depleted by coronavirus response efforts.

“I think right now, because there's been good news really, that the opening up is starting to happen faster than we expected, appears to be doing so safely, then there is a chance that we won't really need a phase four," Hassett said on Fox News on Saturday.

Kudlow warned that “it’s going to be very difficult in the months ahead, no question,” but offered a more optimistic take of the economy’s long-term outlook, saying projections by private forecasters “are looking for a very strong second-half economic rebound and suggesting that 2021, next year, could be one of the fastest growth rebounds in American history or recent history.”

“We're trying to get ... from one side to the other,” Kudlow said. “We're trying to get through this. We're trying to work through this. I don't want to rule in or out anything right now. We are in discussions internally and with leading members of Congress.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, in responding to Kudlow's comments, said on CNN that his state is "going to need more help" and noted that "the message seems to be changing."

Hogan said the first three stimulus packages "have been helpful, and everybody's trying their best to get all of that money out to the people that really need the help." He said he was hopeful that more relief bills are passed, and noted that Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have been supportive of additional aid packages, as well.

Kudlow was one of three Trump Administration officials making the Sunday political talk show rounds.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, appearing on Fox News Sunday morning sounded the alarm on those violating social distancing guidelines, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” said there is “enormous evidence” that COVID-19 originated from a Wuhan, China, virology lab and not from a nearby market.

Birx said it was “devastatingly worrisome” to see recent images of anti-quarantine protesters in Michigan crowded together without masks.

“If they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition, and they have a serious or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” Birx said, later adding that “we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent.”

Asked about Trump’s so-called “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to develop and mass produce a coronavirus vaccine by January, months ahead of the initial 12 to 18 month timeline projected to create a vaccine, Birx said “on paper it’s possible.”

“The way that is possible is if you bring forward five or six different classes of candidates which the Operation Warp Speed has done,” Birx said. “So it’s not relying on a single vaccine platform, it’s relying on several different candidates that are made differently and act differently.”

Pompeo, appearing on “This Week” denounced China for being slow to share the aggressive and fast spreading nature of the virus, saying they “attempted to conceal and hide and confuse” the world.

Asked about the origins of the virus, Pompeo said intelligence pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, not a nearby market as the Chinese have claimed. Even so, Pompeo said the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus has been that the virus was "not man-made or genetically modified."

“We've said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outset, but I think the whole world can see now,” Pompeo said.

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