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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 GrahamMSNBC's Joy Reid pans Manchin, Sinema as the 'no progress caucus' Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike 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 TrumpTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Romney on NRSC awarding Trump: Not 'my preference' McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' 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 MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here 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 McConnellTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Senate GOP opens door to earmarks McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' 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 MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says 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.