President Donald Trump on Friday signed a more than $8 billion spending bill to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, injecting funding into developing a vaccine and other prevention measures.
The $8.3 billion aid package was agreed to earlier this week by Senate and House appropriations managers before it was overwhelmingly passed in the two chambers of Congress along bipartisan lines. Trump, meanwhile, told reporters last week that he would be willing to sign a larger coronavirus spending package after the White House proposed an approximately $2.5 billion plan of its own.
“In situations like this, I believe no expense should be spared to protect the American people, and in crafting this package none was,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in a statement to media outlets. “Its an aggressive plan, a vigorous plan that has received an overwhelming positive reaction.”
Amid a deeply divided Congress just weeks after the end of a Senate impeachment trial of Trump, the quick action underscored just how seriously the government is taking the COVID-19 threat. Dozens of new cases and more than 10 deaths have been confirmed in recent days—namely in hard-hit Washington state—as health officials have warned that the outbreak may morph into a pandemic.
“No state has been more hard hit than the state of Washington,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in a statement. “Whats clear in this supplemental is that we need more resources for testing.” Cantwell said her state would receive $11.5 million in funding to assist the Washington Department of Health to curb the COVID-19 spread.
There are residents of Washington who might feel sick and “arent getting tested” but the public, she said, should understand they “want to make sure that every lab, commercial and academic, in the United States, is getting prepared to help us in the advent of the spread of this virus.”
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) in the House, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in the Senate opposed the measure.
“I dont think theyre panicking,” Trump remarked during the bill signing. “Itll go away.” In the Diplomatic Reception Room on Friday, Trump said that he still would like to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta soon.