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White House pushing back against funding in GOP coronavirus bill

White House pushing back against funding in GOP coronavirus bill
The Trump administration has been pushing back against plans to include billions of dollars in funding for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and the CDC in an upcoming relief bill from Senate GOP lawmakers. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

July 19 (UPI) -- The White House has been pushing back against proposals by Republican senators seeking to provide funding for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing in an upcoming coronavirus relief bill, according to multiple reports.

The Trump administration is seeking to block billions of dollars to provide testing and contact tracing amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in addition to funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pentagon and the State Department to address the pandemic, The Washington Post reported.

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Negotiations are focused on a bill Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing to introduce later this week.

Senate Republicans have proposed providing $25 billion for states to conduct testing and contact tracing as well as $10 billion in new funding for the CDC, but the amount of funding that will be proposed in the final bill is subject to change, CNN reported.

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The White House has sought to zero out the testing and contact tracing money, with some officials saying they have already approved billions of dollars for testing that has remained unspent, according to The Washington Post.

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The Trump administration has sought to roll back federal funding for testing sites throughout the nation, moving to end support for 13 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in June after the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested that states determine whether they would transition from federal coronavirus testing sites to state-run locations in April.

The United States has reported 3,715,166 coronavirus cases and 140,131 deaths related to the virus, according to figures by John's Hopkins University.

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State and congressional lawmakers have pushed for the federal government to continue support for testing sites, while President Donald Trump has repeatedly linked widespread testing to high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Trump, in an interview with Fox News Sunday suggested that positive cases from younger people should not count toward the national total and said the United States is "creating trouble" by pursuing widespread testing.

"Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day," Trump said. "They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test."

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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Sunday called the national testing scene "a complete disgrace" in an interview with NBC News' Meet the Press.

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"So every test we send out to private lab partners nationally, Quest, LabCorp, seven days, eight days, nine days, maybe six days if we're lucky, almost useless from an epidemiological or even diagnostic perspective," Polis said. "Fortunately, our state lab has done yeoman's work. We're running three shifts a day there 24 hours a day. So while some are still sent out of state and unfortunately that takes a long time, and we can't count on it, and our country needs to get testing right, we're trying to build that capacity in Colorado to process tests at that one to two-day turnaround."

The White House has also sought to zero out the $10 billion in funding for the CDC, while also decreasing funding for the Pentagon and State Department related to foreign aid, The Washington Post reported.

Trump has long been wary of spending on foreign aid and the administration has said the CDC had received adequate funding from previous relief packages that remains unspent, as an official told CNN there is no "blocking" of proposed funds but that the White House is best equipped to direct funds for certain agencies.

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