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White House presses Congress for coronavirus funding by mid-March

White House presses Congress for coronavirus funding by mid-March
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The White House on Friday said it hopes Congress will send President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE a supplemental funding bill to combat the coronavirus within the next two weeks.

Officials said during a briefing for reporters that they are hopeful the measure will land on Trump's desk before mid-March.

“If everything stays on track up there, we would expect Congress to provide us a package as early as the top of next week,” White House director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland said.

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Ueland said officials want Trump to be able to sign legislation "no later than the end of this work period," but "as soon as possible."

“As fast as Congress can act, we’ll be ready to act as well,” he said, adding he was hopeful unrelated issues would not derail talks on funds to fight the coronavirus.

The two-week timeframe largely aligns with what lawmakers on Capitol Hill have suggested.

Russell Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, indicated that federal agencies have enough funding to combat the coronavirus into April, but underscored the urgency of passing a supplemental bill.

"We need a supplemental. We need it soon. There’s no doubt about that," Vought said. "But we haven’t run out of money, and we’ve got some time and we think Congress is taking this very seriously."

The Trump administration earlier this week submitted a $2.5 billion supplemental funding request to Congress, a figure lawmakers in both parties viewed as insufficient. The final package is likely to be between $6 billion and $8 billion, according to one source familiar with negotiations.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said any funding bill should include resources for certain key needs, such as support for state and local governments, vaccines and personal protective equipment such as masks and respirators.

Administration officials on Friday did not say what final dollar figure they expect to come out of Congress, but Trump said Wednesday night that he would be open to more funding than what the White House initially proposed.

The White House has been in regular contact with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, holding conference calls, responding to letters and giving briefings to members in both chambers.

Dozens of Americans have been confirmed to have contracted coronavirus, including more than 40 individuals who were repatriated from China or a cruise ship earlier this month.

Public health officials have warned that the virus is likely to spread in the U.S., and California is monitoring thousands of potential cases.

The president earlier this week tapped Vice President Pence to lead the government response to the coronavirus. Pence in turn named career health official and State Department appointee Deborah Birx to coordinate the White House response.