Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding

Bonnie Cash
Lawmakers are moving quickly to try to pass emergency coronavirus funding before a mid-March break, with negotiators eyeing finalizing an agreement by early next week. 
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) are negotiating an emergency spending package. 
Shelby told reporters the spending package will provide a “much higher” figure than the $2.5 billion requested by the Trump administration, predicting the final deal will be more than $4 billion. 
“We want to make sure if this stuff really spreads that we’re doing our job,” Shelby said. 
Shelby added that the bill would have a “clawback” option if the agencies ended up not needing the money. He added that he thinks they will be to a “point of moving” a final agreement by the start of next week. 
Lawmakers and their staff have been racing behind the scenes this week to try to come up with a package to combat the coronavirus that could easily pass both chambers. 

They’re under pressure to move quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday announced the first case of coronavirus in the United States with an “unknown” origin.

Meanwhile, the stock market has plummeted this week amid fears of a coronavirus epidemic within the United States. 
If Congress is going to pass the coronavirus funding before a mid-March recess, it has approximately 10 working days to finalize the legislation, get it passed in both the House and Senate and then put it on Trump’s desk for the president’s signature. 
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Thursday that he hoped the House could take up a coronavirus package next week. 
“I’m hopeful that we can get this done next week. This isn’t something to wait around. … And I will give credit to the appropriators who have been sitting in the room, making it happen,” McCarthy said. 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, said he wants the Senate to pass the bill before the break when lawmakers will leave by March 13 for a week-long recess. 

“I hope they can work expeditiously so the full Senate would be able to take up the legislation within the next two weeks. And I hope, as we move forward through this challenge, this body can put reflexive partisanship aside and uphold the spirit of cooperation and collaboration this will require,” McConnell said.

President Trump and Democrats have proposed vastly different amounts for coronavirus funding. 
The White House initially requested $2.5 billion: $1.25 billion in new funding and the rest taken from existing health programs, including $535 million from fighting Ebola.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) meanwhile requested $8.5 billion in all new funding. 

He and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a handful of requirements for a coronavirus funding deal, including that vaccines be “affordable and available to all that need it” and that Trump cannot transfer the money to fund anything other than the coronavirus and infectious diseases.
Shelby acknowledged that his final deal with Lowey would go above the White House request but that “we’re not interested in going that high,” referring to Schumer’s figure. 
Helping leave the door open for negotiations, Trump largely deferred the final figure to lawmakers during a press conference on Wednesday. 
“Congress is talking to us about funding, and we’re getting far more than what we asked for. And, I guess, the best thing to do is take it. We’ll take it,” he said.
Tags Charles Schumer Coronavirus Donald Trump House Appropriations Committee House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Nita Lowey Richard Shelby Senate
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