Coronavirus: White House asking for more funds despite seeking deep health agency cuts, reports say

February 24, 2020
In The News

After proposing deep cuts to federal agencies tasked with fighting serious diseases, the Trump administration is preparing to ask Congress for approval to access monies to battle the Coronavirus.

In its fiscal year 2020 budget request released earlier this month, the White House proposed a 12 percent funding cut for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a 10 percent reduction for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though presidents' spending blueprints generally are considered dead on arrival because lawmakers control federal dollars, they are a clear statement about a president's priorities.

To that end, the Trump White House has been panned for its overall set of proposed health agency cuts -- especially as the Coronavirus has spread, even roiling stock markets on Monday.

Administration officials as early as this week are expected to ask Congress for permission to move $130 million from other HHS accounts to fight the virus. In addition, the administration is cobbling together a request for emergency dollars to help with, among other things, a possible vaccine.

A group of House Democrats last week pressed the administration to send them a request for an emergency package, a rare moment of bipartisan budgeteering during Washington's decade-old partisan era.

The coming emergency request was first reported by The Associated Press. White House spokespersons had not responded to a request for comment. But one Democratic lawmaker did comment.

"The Dow dropped significantly this morning because of the continuing spread of the coronavirus," tweeted California Congressman Ted Lieu. "The @realDonaldTrump budget proposes cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retweet if you think cutting @CDCgov is really dumb." As of 4 p.m. ET, the post had been retweeted 16,600 times.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, meantime, told Fox News that "this president will continue working on that," referring to anti-virus measures.

She described the president as "fully engaged" in the federal government's efforts to combat the virus. In an indirect defence of the proposed cuts, Ms Conway said fighting such diseases is part of what that agency and others already do each day. 

"We just don't know everything about this Coronavirus," she said, saying it is different from other viruses like the flu. 

"We're doing everything we can," Ms Conway said. "And the president is briefed on this daily."

The president weighed in from India, just after 3 a.m. local time in New Delhi, where he is for a state visit.

"The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!" he tweeted as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other markets were well down on Coronavirus fears. The Dow alone dropped over 1,000 points on Monday.