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Senate GOP and White House strike deal on $16 billion for coronavirus testing

Senate GOP and White House strike deal on $16 billion for coronavirus testing
© Bonnie Cash

The White House and a key group of Senate GOP negotiators struck a deal on Wednesday for new coronavirus testing funds.

The forthcoming proposal, text of which is expected to be released Thursday, will provide $16 billion in new funding for coronavirus testing, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Congress faces late-year logjam The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Barr splits with Trump on election; pardon controversy MORE (R-Mo.), one of the negotiators, told reporters.

In addition to the new funds, another $9 billion from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March will be designated for testing.

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"We'll have $16 billion in a line tomorrow, and $9 billion that previously was not as clearly designated that they already had will now be clearly designated as testing, so the total testing money will be $25 billion," Blunt told reporters.

The announcement came after Blunt, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse Democrats pick DeLauro to lead Appropriations panel The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Congress faces late-year logjam MORE (R-Ala.) and Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell chokes up saying goodbye to 'friend' Lamar Alexander in floor speech Mark Kelly sworn in to Senate seat Longtime GOP lawmaker urges Senate to restore itself in farewell speech MORE (R-Tenn.) met with White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAlyssa Farah resigns as White House communications director Trump hits Barr over voter fraud remarks: 'He hasn't looked' Trump had tense meeting with Barr after statement DOJ found no widespread election fraud: reports MORE and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Sweeping financial crimes bill to hitch a ride on defense measure On The Money: Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms | Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks | Poll: Most Americans support raising taxes on those making at least 0K MORE to try to finalize an agreement on their part of the coronavirus negotiations.

Senate Republicans had initially wanted $25 billion in new testing funding, sparking pushback from the White House. Asked earlier this week about new testing money, Meadows appeared dismissive.

"How would they even know what funding for testing is?" he said Monday on his way into a meeting with the same group of negotiators.

Senate Republicans view more testing money as a top priority at a time when coronavirus cases across the country are climbing. The United States is approaching 4 million confirmed cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, which put the number of cases at 3,941,741 on Wednesday evening.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him WaPo reporter says GOP has less incentive to go big on COVID-19 relief COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE (R-Utah), speaking with reporters earlier, appeared critical of the administration's handling of the virus.

"I just feel it's taken us a long, long, long time to get to a point where we have rapid testing, which we don't have yet; ample testing, which we don't have; personal protective equipment that's still in short supply in certain places," he said.