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. “It’s 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. “What’s 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 “aren’t 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 don’t think they’re panicking,” Trump remarked during the bill signing. “It’ll 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.
Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that Trump was expected to sign an $8.3 billion spending bill as he met with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
The efforts by federal health officials and Congress members, according to Pence, marks the best of “D.C. coming together, putting the health and wellbeing of the American people first and making nearly $8 billion available not only to federal agencies but to state and local efforts as we confront coronavirus.”
The COVID-19 outbreak originated in Wuhan, located in China’s Hubei Province, infecting tens of thousands of people in the country and abroad. Some experts and world leaders have accused the Chinese Communist Party of covering up the full extent of the outbreak in the country, while adding that the regime is censoring dissidents who report on the regime’s measures.