House Democrats were quick to dismiss the Trump administration’s new $45.8 billion supplemental appropriations request for the ongoing COVID-19 response, sent up to Capitol Hill late Tuesday night.
“This document shows the Trump administration’s complete lack of seriousness in facing up to this threat,” a House Democratic aide who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter said Wednesday. “Many of the provisions are not directly related to the coronavirus response and those that do address coronavirus are not sufficient to meet the needs of the American people as we confront this pandemic.”
The aide said that more funding for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to deport undocumented immigrants is one of the specific funding asks that Democrats oppose.
The Trump administration asked for $249 million for ICE that it said will be used to charter airplanes “to continue repatriating” people that have been ordered out of the country. ICE would also use the funding to convert four facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border to “quarantine facilities” and to increase monitoring of undocumented immigrants in the Alternatives to Detention program.
A Senate Republican aide said lawmakers and staff are reviewing the request.
The House Democratic aide didn’t say whether House Democrats plan to put together their own supplemental spending request, like they did late last month after the White House requested $2.5 billion to bolster agency response to the outbreak — only half of which was new funding. Congress, instead, wrote an $8.3 billion package that cleared earlier this month with only three lawmakers voting against it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said a third coronavirus-related package currently under development would also address additional needs of federal agencies and public health officials. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed a separate $1 trillion economic stimulus plan, but the White House budget office’s new appropriations request is not part of that.
The 118-page supplemental request proposes large funding increases for several federal departments, including $8.3 billion for the Department of Defense, $11.5 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, $3.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and $16.6 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Office of Management and Budget also proposed creating a $3 billion account that would be managed by Acting Director Russell Vought for “unanticipated needs” that would be structured similar to a fund established following the Step. 11 terrorist attacks.
The measure includes additional funds to help the Veterans Health Administration cope with a surge of patients, as well as money to invest in vaccine research and development and for state and local health agencies. The package would also provide funding to help cash-strapped Amtrak get through the first of the year, evacuate thousands of Peace Corps volunteers still abroad in places exposed to COVID-19, and more.