Media Moves

Senate passes $8.3-bln coronavirus package

March 6, 2020

Posted by Irina Slav

The Senate passed a proposal for an $8.3-billion aid package to help various agencies fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Andrew Taylor reported the news for the AP:

President Donald Trump is expected to sign an $8.3 billion measure to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The legislation would provide federal public health agencies money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments, and help state and local governments prepare for and respond to the threat.

The Senate passed the measure Thursday to help tackle the outbreak in hopes of reassuring a fearful public and accelerating the government’s response to the virus. Its rapid spread is threatening to upend everyday life in the U.S. and across the globe.

The money would pay for a multifaceted attack on a virus that is spreading more widely every day, sending financial markets spiraling again Thursday, disrupting travel and potentially threatening the U.S. economy’s decade-long expansion.

Thursday’s sweeping 96-1 vote sends the bill to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cast the sole “no” vote. The House passed the bill Wednesday by a 415-2 vote.

The plan would more than triple the $2.5 billion amount outlined by the White House 10 days ago. The Trump proposal was immediately discarded by members of Congress from both parties. Instead, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations committees negotiated the increased figure and other provisions of the legislation in a burst of bipartisan cooperation that’s common on the panel but increasingly rare elsewhere in Washington.

Claudia Grisales from NPR reported:

President Trump is expected to sign an $8 billion emergency spending package into law Friday, responding to growing cases linked to the coronavirus illness domestically and abroad.

Visiting Olympia, Wash. on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence praised Congress’ bipartisan response, and said some of the funds would be available for state and local response.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the package Thursday with a 96-1 vote — Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul opposed the bill. He proposed an amendment that offset some of the costs of the legislation with cuts elsewhere, but that effort failed.

The action follows a similar bipartisan House vote a day earlier.

A bipartisan group of members and staff for the appropriations panels in both the House and Senate unveiled the legislation on Wednesday after several days of talks. They released details of the plan, which will boost funding for testing of the virus and lower costs for related medical treatments.

Although partisan disagreements on providing affordable access to treatment slowed down negotiations in recent days, members said putting politics aside finally provided the breakthrough they needed to reach a deal.

USA Today’s Christal Hayes wrote:

The package includes more than $3 billion for research and the development of vaccines and $2.2 billion that will help in prevention, preparedness and response. It also allocates $1 billion for state and local response, about half of which would go to specific cities. Each state would receive no less than $4 million. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded the “swift bipartisan action” and said it was “only possible because members in both chambers put the actual needs of experts and health care professionals ahead of partisan posturing.” 

“COVID-19 is a new challenge that Americans will have to confront together,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Fortunately, we are positioned to meet that challenge and are growing more ready every day.”

Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Richard Shelby, who helped lead the negotiations between the House and Senate, said he was also grateful that the deal came together so quickly to get the money to the communities that need it. 

“I am pleased Congress has swiftly passed this emergency supplemental to combat the dangerous coronavirus,” the Alabama Republican said.  “It includes what our experts say they need. It attacks the crisis at the local, state, federal, and international levels. And it brings to bear the full resources of the federal government.”

The bipartisan support for the funding was applauded by both sides of the aisle, despite Democrats unease over the president’s initial response to the virus. 


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