Faced with a rising death toll and mounting panic across the country, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a sweeping bill to provide $ 8.3 billion in emergency aid to combat the threat of the novel coronavirus.
The funding package, which includes $ 2.2 billion to help with prevention and response efforts and more than $ 3 billion for vaccine research, was passed by a vote of 415 to 2 after days of intense negotiations.
Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Ken Buck of Colorado, citing cost concerns, were the lone holdouts. The White House had originally asked Congress for $ 2.5 billion to help in the battle against the virus.
“How do you move from $ 2.5 billion dollars to $ 8.5 billion dollars?” Biggs told The Hill. “I mean [the administration’s] doing all kinds of things that are going to have significant substantive advantages to slow down and protect people. And it looks like this is just a money play to some of my colleagues across the aisle — there’s no offsets, there’s no credibility.”
The emergency bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to consider the legislation on Thursday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that Democrats hope to see the funding package passed through the Senate by the end of the week.
“Today, Democrats and Republicans in Congress showed they can come together in a bipartisan way to respond to the coronavirus in a swift, smart and strategic way to keep the American people safe,” Schumer said.
The bill was approved by the House on the same day that California reported its first death from the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, bringing the total death toll in the U.S. to at least 11.
More than 150 cases have been identified in the country so far.