UPDATE: The Senate has passed the $8.3 billion measure to combat the coronavirus by a near unanimous, 96-1 vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was the lone "no" vote. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth of Warren (D-MA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) were absent. The bill will now head to President Trump's desk.
Senate votes 96-1 to PASS the $8.3 billion Coronavirus supplemental funding package.— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) March 5, 2020
The bill, which overwhelmingly passed in the House yesterday, now goes to President Trump's desk for his signature.
"I applaud this package and was proud to support it," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement after the vote. "It provides targeted resources for a serious national response to a serious challenge."
"The majority of the supplemental resources will be directed to the Department of Health and Human Services. That includes billions of dollars in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and for the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Fund."
Congress has reached a bipartisan $8.3 billion deal to combat the coronavirus, a major increase from the $2.5 billion President Trump requested last week. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to vote on the measure by Friday.
The Star Tribune outlined several specific plans for the new funds.
Instead, the agreement provides $300 million for the government to purchase such drugs at “fair and reasonable” prices to distribute them to those who need it — which is the standard applied in earlier crises like the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak.
The bipartisan legislation includes: $350 million to aggressively go after the virus in “hot spots” like Washington state; $500 million to buy drugs, masks, and other medical supplies for states, local governments and hospitals; $1 billion to reimburse state and local governments for costs incurred in battling the outbreak; and $300 million for the Centers for Disease Control's rapid response fund.
More than $800 million would fund research into a vaccine, improved tests, and drugs to treat infected people. Another $1.3 billion would be used to help fight the virus overseas. (Star Tribune)
The agreement comes at a welcome time, considering Washington State is experiencing a virus outbreak, and Los Angeles officials just declared a state of emergency. Eleven people have now died in the U.S. from the virus.
Los Angeles County on Wednesday declared a health emergency as the number of #coronavirus cases increased to seven, with six new cases. Follow live updates here https://t.co/s6Sa3SkLE2 pic.twitter.com/mx3z9vrKpd— Reuters (@Reuters) March 4, 2020
You can read the full text of the bill here. Vice President Mike Pence, who leads President Trump's coronavirus task force, is expected to travel to Washington to the source of the state's outbreak.
“This moment calls for collaboration and unity,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday after Congress reached a deal. “It’s time to give our public health experts and healthcare professionals the surge resources they need at this challenging time.”
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer chose not to follow McConnell's lead and again pointed fingers at the president.
While President Trump is playing fast and loose with the facts, and blaming everyone not named Donald Trump—Congress is taking responsibility and acting like the adult in the room.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 4, 2020
The Trump admin’s response to coronavirus has been slow and halting.
Congress is taking action. pic.twitter.com/b6ucecvll4
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also played politics this week, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy noted in a press conference. He was glad to see she was finally playing nice and helping to pass this important legislation.
"Democrats finally backed away from their partisan charade that would have slowed down our ability to develop a vaccine and procure it," Leader McCarthy's office said in a statement on Wednesday.