Lawmakers are discussing a spending package that would provide between $6 billion to $8 billion to combat the coronavirus, a source familiar with the talks confirmed to The Hill.
The zeroing in on the higher spending range comes as negotiators want to finalize a deal by early next week, which would allow for the spending package to go to the House floor for a vote shortly thereafter.
Congress has approximately 10 working days before it is set to leave for a weeklong recess, giving lawmakers a tight timeframe if they are going to finalize a deal, get it passed by both chambers and get it to President Trump’s desk before leaving town.
The spending levels under discussion are double to triple the initial $2.5 billion requested by the White House. That request included $1.25 billion in new funding. The rest would be taken from existing health programs, including $535 million from fighting Ebola.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) indicated on Thursday that the final figure would be “much higher” than the $2.5 billion initially requested by the White House.
He also indicated that it would be more than $4 billion but that they were “not interested” in going as high as the $8.5 billion, an amount initially requested by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“We want to make sure if this stuff really spreads that we’re doing our job,” Shelby said.
Shelby, House Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and their staffs have been working behind the scenes to try to get a deal on combating the disease.
The source familiar with the talks added that while the range discussed was between $6 billion and $8 billion, negotiators are looking at the higher end of that range.
The bill, according to Shelby, is being drafted to include a “clawback” option if the agencies ended up not needing the money, as well providing agencies with flexibility on spending the funds.
The movement toward a higher spending figure comes after Republicans, including Shelby and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), indicated they thought the White House’s request was too low.
Trump said during a press conference on Wednesday that he would largely defer the final figure to lawmakers.
“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.