Republican and Democratic lawmakers are at odds over whether to provide additional funding for the government’s response to the coronavirus in the just-released third stimulus package or to draft a separate, fourth bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday the Appropriations Committee would be tasked with sorting through a $45.8 billion supplemental spending request the White House sent Congress on Tuesday night and drafting a bill that lawmakers can vote on after approving a massive stimulus package.
“Immediately after we pass this legislation, Congress must begin a bipartisan, bicameral appropriations process to address the administration's new supplemental funding request so we can keep funding health care and other priorities,” the Kentucky Republican said.
House Democrats don’t support the idea and indicated Thursday they want any additional funding for federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health, in the third package instead.
“The House Appropriations Committee is developing plans, far broader than the Trump administration’s supplemental request, to fully fund the federal, state, and local response to coronavirus,” House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander said in a statement. “The phase three package must be comprehensive, and it would be irresponsible to exclude needed appropriations from that legislation.”
Democrats rebuked the Office of Management and Budget’s request earlier this week for including provisions not directly related to the coronavirus response, claiming it as further proof the White House hasn’t been taking the outbreak as seriously as it should.
A House Democratic aide, not authorized to speak publicly, on Wednesday panned the Trump administration’s decision and added that the funding in the request that does address the coronavirus isn't "sufficient to meet the needs of the American people as we confront this pandemic.”
Congress approved $8.3 billion in aid earlier this month to reinforce federal agencies' efforts to combat COVID-19 and provide financial resources for local and state health departments.
Then this week, the Senate cleared and President Donald Trump signed a second package aimed at providing paid sick leave, free diagnostic testing and expanded food aid to help Americans struggling with the global pandemic.
The Senate GOP unveiled its proposal for a third package Thursday that would include direct payments to Americans and tax cuts for businesses. Republicans will now need to begin discussions with Democratic leadership if the massive stimulus bill has any chance of becoming law.
Democrats want the bill to include protections for employees as well as additional resources for various government agencies working to combat the spread of the virus.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., told reporters Thursday afternoon following a closed-door GOP lunch that he expects to work on an additional bill.
“We’re thinking of the fourth package,” he said.
David Lerman contributed to this report.