Senate GOP and White House strike deal on $16 billion for coronavirus testing
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 Blunt (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.
“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 Shelby (R-Ala.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin 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 Romney (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.
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