White House asking Congress for $2.5 billion to fight coronavirus
The Trump administration announced Monday night that it will ask Congress for “at least $2.5 billion” in additional funding to fight the coronavirus.
The request indicates that the administration is seeking to step up its response to the virus as it spreads to more countries.
However, the request met quick resistance from Democrats. Just $1.25 billion of the request is for new funding, with the rest requested to be taken from existing health programs, including $535 million from fighting Ebola.
“The Trump administration’s request for emergency funding is woefully insufficient to protect Americans from the deadly coronavirus outbreak,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).
She said the request would “raid money Congress has designated for other critical public health priorities” and still falls short of the total amount of funding needed.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) went farther, assailing President Trump’s response and calling the request “indicative of his towering incompetence.”
House Democrats said they would instead draft their own funding bill for the virus.
The administration’s request came after much internal debate and officials touted the figures on Monday
“The Trump Administration continues to take the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease very seriously,” said White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) spokeswoman Rachel Semmel.
“Today, the Administration is transmitting to Congress a $2.5 billion supplemental funding plan to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response activities and to procure much needed equipment and supplies,” she added.
The funding request will include at least $1 billion for vaccine development, an official said.
“The President’s priority is protecting the homeland, and the Administration is working aggressively to minimize the risk of the virus spreading in the United States,” OMB Director Russell Vought wrote in a letter to lawmakers obtained by The Hill.
The funding request comes as the virus spreads to more countries, including new outbreaks in Italy, Iran and South Korea, raising concerns about global spread.
There is not currently known to be transmission of the virus among the general public in the United States, but many experts expect that is likely to happen eventually.
Democrats called for additional funding weeks ago, but the administration only moved forward with that request on Monday.
Schumer amped up his rhetoric on the issue earlier in the day.
“All of the warning lights are flashing bright red,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “We are staring down a potential pandemic, and the administration has no plan. We have a crisis of coronavirus, and President Trump has no plan, no urgency, no understanding of the facts or how to coordinate a response.”
There is a closed-door briefing for senators from administration officials on the virus on Tuesday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 1,000 points on Monday over virus fears. Trump, though, insisted the coronavirus is “very much under control” in a tweet.
“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries,” Trump tweeted. “CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Updated at 9:35 p.m.