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House passes $8.3B bill to fight coronavirus outbreak by sweeping bipartisan vote; Senate vote expected Thursday

Posted at 1:58 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-04 17:10:19-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has easily passed an $8.3 billion measure to battle the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. The sweeping bipartisan vote came just nine days after President Donald Trump requested action.

The legislation came together unusually quickly, a rarity in a deeply polarized Washington. The legislation more than triples the $2.5 billion plan unveiled by Trump just last week. It would speed development of vaccines and new medicines to battle the virus, pay for containment operations, and beef up preparedness.

Trump is expected to sign the measure, which has the blessing of top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and top House Republican Kevin McCarthy of California.

In response to the passing of the bill, McCarthy released the following statement:

"For the past week, I have been imploring that politics be left out when it comes to dealing with a public health crisis. Today, Democrats demonstrated they finally agree.

"The final coronavirus spending bill, agreed to by both sides, does not include partisan legislative language that would have slowed down vaccine development, procurement, and availability.

"Rather, this clean deal provides over $7 billion in emergency funding that will speed the development of vaccines, increase access to testing and treatments, and expand access to telemedicine services so more people can see their doctor remotely.

"While this deal is something to celebrate, it should have happened last week. There was no need to delay for political reasons – it was petty and unnecessary.

"In the end, there is nothing more important than the health and safety of American citizens, and I’m thankful that Democrats finally backed away from their partisan charade to help deliver the clean bill they deserve.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy House Minority Leader

The Washington Post reports that the funding would include more than $3 billion for the research and development of things like vaccines. It would also reportedly allow $7 billion in low-interest Small Business Administration loans for companies impacted by the outbreak.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention would receive about $2.2 billion of the funding, while $3.1 billion would go to a public health and social services emergency fund, according to The Post.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer says “there is no reason to be penny-wise and pound-foolish” when it comes to Americans' health.

As of Wednesday morning, 11 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, the illness associated with the new virus. One of those deaths was from California.