The House overwhelmingly passed an $8.3 billion supplemental spending bill on Wednesday, March 4, to tackle the coronavirus that is spreading across the world and threatens the United States.
The legislation passed 415-2, with only Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Ken Buck of Colorado voting against the measure, citing concerns over the level of spending. The Senate is expected to take up the measure as early as this week.
“Throwing money at a potentially serious issue does not alleviate the American people’s concerns,” Biggs said in a statement. “Nor does politicizing the issue to score points for future elections. Congressional Republicans and Democrats should join the White House to calmly, wisely, and pro-actively communicate a unified response to their constituents.”
“This is the problem with D.C. We shouldn’t exploit a problem to pass a bloated spending bill,” he tweeted. “Americans count on us to spend their money wisely.”
The bill was three times the $2.5 billion initially requested by the White House. It includes more than $3 billion dedicated to research and development on vaccines, medicines for treatment, and diagnostic tests, $2.2 billion to help federal, state, and local public health agencies prepare for and respond to the coronavirus, including $300 million for the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) rapid response fund.
It also provides nearly $1 billion for medical supplies and other preparedness steps at states, local governments, and hospitals, $1.3 billion to help fight the virus overseas, and $500 million to Medicare for remote telehealth consultations.
“This moment calls for collaboration and unity,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, reported the Fox News. “It’s time to give our public health experts and health care professionals the surge resources they need at this challenging time.”
The agreement came as California became the second state to announce a death from the coronavirus and there are more than 100 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States across 13 states as of Wednesday.
Vice President Mike Pence, the administration’s point man to response to the coronavirus, on Tuesday evening said that there was new guidance from the CDC that any American could be tested for the coronavirus.