The Trump administration is seeking to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
The administration is also trying to block billions of dollars that GOP senators want to provide for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and billions more for the Pentagon and State Department to address the pandemic at home and abroad, sources told The Post.
The report also comes as the United States broke its record of daily new cases for the 11th time in July on Thursday.
The officials, who spoke to The Post on condition of anonymity to reveal confidential discussions, cautioned that talks were still underway and that numbers had not yet been finalized.
The negotiations focus on a bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to bring before Congress next week as part of negotiations with Democrats on what will likely be the last major coronavirus relief bill before the November election.
Congressional negotiations are expected to unfold with added urgency due to the surge of cases and climbing death toll in the United State. The disagreement, however, between Trump administration officials and Senate Republicans who are at odds about money for testing and other priorities is creating a major bottleneck before those talks get started.
One person involved in the talks told The Post that Senate Republicans were seeking to allocate $25 billion for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, but that certain administration officials want to zero out the testing and tracing money entirely. According to the report, many White House officials argue that some of that money remains unspent since the last major coronavirus spending bill Congress was approved in April which included $25 billion to increase testing.
Meanwhile testing challenges still abound in some hotspots where wait times for test results vary greatly, with people in some places having to wait more than a week to find out if they have tested positive. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday that he would send less business to some labs where testing results have been delayed for long periods.
The report comes as the Trump administration has deepened its attacks of health experts and scientists who have provided guidance — and at times warnings — about the future of the nation should its leaders fail to take critical action to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The news follows a White House announcement Wednesday that directed hospitals to change how they report data to the federal government and how that data will be made available. Effective Wednesday, hospitals were told to report coronavirus case data to the Health and Human Services Department bypassing the CDC – a move that has be criticized by many as an attempt to potentially obscure the true picture of testing results.
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