Senate Approves $8.3 Billion Emergency Coronavirus Package, Sending Bill to Trump

March 5, 2020 Updated: March 5, 2020
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The Senate passed the House’s $8.3 billion coronavirus bill on Thursday, with a single vote against the measure coming from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

The $8.3 billion emergency funding measure easily cleared the House on Wednesday in a 415-2 vote just hours after the House and Senate appropriations leaders, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), unveiled the plan.

The bill, which passed 96-1 in the Senate, includes around $3 billion in vaccine research and some $2.2 billion in prevention and preparedness efforts, greatly exceeding a proposal put forward by the White House last week. But President Donald Trump told reporters that he wasn’t opposed to a larger spending package.

“If they want to give us more money, that’s okay; we’ll take more money,” Trump said at the time.

The spending package also includes $500 million to expand access to health services to seniors, who are considered the most at-risk group during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of the virus deaths around the world are among older people and individuals who are suffering from underlying health problems.

Paul put an amendment on the measure to cut funding for certain international programs to cover the costs of coronavirus spending. However, the Senate voted in a bipartisan manner to kill the amendment.

“I support our government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus,” Paul said in a statement ahead of the vote. “We also owe it to the American people to do it in a way that avoids piling billions more in debt on their backs.”

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A man in a face mask rides the subway in Manhattan after further cases of coronavirus were confirmed in New York on March 5, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

More than 100 cases and 11 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the United States so far. The vast majority of the deaths have occurred in Washington state’s King County, said officials.

“This should not be about politics, this is about doing our jobs to protect the American people from a potential pandemic,” Shelby said in a statement on Wednesday. “We worked together to craft an aggressive and comprehensive response that provides the resources the experts say they need to combat this crisis. I thank my colleagues for their cooperation and appreciate President Trump’s eagerness to sign this legislation and get the funding out the door without delay.”

“The American people are counting on our government for a fully-funded, coordinated, and comprehensive government-wide response to the coronavirus,” Lowey said in a statement of her own.

Over the past week, amid negotiations, both Democrats and Republicans said more funding is needed to address the outbreak.

“As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States continues to grow, Congress is taking swift action this week to provide our health experts, hospital, health care providers and state and local governments the funding they need,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor earlier in the week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday lauded the bipartisan efforts to come up with a deal.

“The way to secure these urgently-needed resources with speed and certainty was to forgo partisan posturing, forgo micromanagement at the leadership level, and let bipartisan appropriators do their work,” McConnell told reporters.