There’s a lot of tension between Senate Republicans and the White House on the issue of testing funds.
What We Know:
- Senate GOP and the White House are clashing on whether there should be additional funding for COVID-19 testing in the next relief package. Including Democratic demand, it could increase to $2 trillion.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows want to keep the initial Republican offer to around $1 trillion and they disagree with including another $25 billion for COVID-19 because Congress appropriated $25 billion to states for testing in the $484 billion interim relief package Congress passed in April. Nearly $13 billion of that funding remains unspent.
- Republican Senators like Roy Blunt (Mo.) do not agree with not increasing funding for testing. “I just think that’s wrong,” Blunt said. “We’re in the process of developing tests that would be easier to take and quicker responded to. If you’re going to get people back to school and back to work, having those kinds of tests is really important.”
- According to a congressional official, the White House is concerned with keeping the initial Republican coronavirus relief proposal cost low while the Senate GOP’s main concern is with the virus and getting a handle on it because of the spikes that have been occurring in states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, Ohio, and Michigan.
- “I think the straight talk here that everyone needs to understand is this is not going away,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky) said, referring to President Trump’s prediction that the virus is “going to disappear”.
- Along with opposing new funding for testing, the White House also opposed new funding for the CDC to use for the vaccine distribution while Republican lawmakers think the opposite. However, administration officials oppose it because Trump has already agreed to funding for Operation Warp Speed, which is an interagency program that was created by the federal government to create and distribute the vaccination for COVID-19. Operation Warp Speed includes the CDC. Giving the CDC additional money would be paying for vaccine distribution twice. The CDC has already been given $7.5 billion from previous legislation and $5 billion of it is still unobligated.
Because testing is a major political and policy issue, Senate Republicans don’t want to lose their majority in the November elections. WIth the tension among Republicans, this may give Democrats leverage during the elections.