GOP senators question inclusion of FBI funding in coronavirus bill

Senate Republicans are distancing themselves from the decision to include nearly $2 billion for the construction of a new FBI headquarters in the GOP's proposal for the next round of coronavirus relief.  

The package — negotiated by GOP leadership and the Trump administration — includes $1.75 billion for "the design and construction of a Washington, DC headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation," according to the text of the appropriations section of the legislation.  

"I don’t know. That makes no sense to me," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters when asked about the inclusion of the funds.

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Graham, a close ally of President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE who is up for reelection, added that he would support removing the language from the bill. 

Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership, argued that the funding should instead go through the annual government funding bills. 

"To me it's not coronavirus-related," Barrasso said. 

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) added that he just didn't "get it." 

"I mean, how's it tied to coronavirus?" he asked. 

Republicans pointed to the White House for answers on why the funding was in the coronavirus relief bill. The Trump administration has pushed to keep the new headquarters in Washington, D.C. The new headquarters was previously expected to be built in a D.C. suburb.

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"it's just a pressing need. Whether it's this bill or the CR [continuing resolution] later," said White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump Jan. 6 committee asks Ivanka Trump to sit for interview The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks MORE.

Pressed on what it had to do with the coronavirus, Meadows said that "everybody acknowledges" that the bill's must-pass status makes it a target for other funding. 

"I don't see it standing in the way of us getting a deal," Meadows said. 

But Democrats have signaled that they are opposed to including the funding in the final bill. And, in a blow to the Trump administration's efforts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum MORE (R-Ky.) said he also wants it out.

"I am opposed to non-germane amendments whether it's funding for the FBI building or for example in the House bill ... the tax cuts for high-income earners," McConnell said after a closed-door Senate GOP lunch with Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinConservatives are outraged that Sarah Bloom Raskin actually believes in capitalism Suspect in Khashoggi murder arrested The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules MORE.

"When we get to the end of the process, I would hope all of the non-COVID related measures are out, no matter what bills they were in at the start," he added.

The inclusion of the funding appeared to catch McConnell off guard on Monday evening.

Asked about it at first, he questioned if the funding was in the bill. A staff member then indicated that it was. 

Asked a second time about the funding, the GOP Senate leader told reporters to ask the administration "why they instituted that be included." 

"Well regarding that proposal obviously we had to have an agreement with the administration in order to get started. And they'll have to answer the question of why they insisted on that provision," he said.

--This report was updated at 3:44 p.m.