Staff at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have not been good soldiers in Donald Trump’s war on the coronavirus and the president now apparently wants to deny them more funding in the new coronavirus relief bill because they aren’t playing ball.
The president believes there’s plenty of money still left from the $2 trillion relief bill he signed in March. But the administration is looking to deny the CDC any increases for testing and contact tracing, leading some GOP aides in the Senate to despair.
The CDC continues to treat the coronavirus as a public health issue. It is not. It’s a political issue and not being sensitive to that singular fact is apparently going to cost the agency.
Some Senate Republicans are pushing for more money for Covid-19 contact tracing and testing, but the White House argues that there is sufficient funding still remaining from the March stimulus law, the source said.
The specifics of the bill are expected to be unveiled next week, so any discussions at this point are just preliminary — and the amount of funding to propose is a moving target even among GOP members, according to a GOP source. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has kept details of the bill closely held so far.
“You would have to try hard to come up with a more tone deaf position,” one GOP aide said, noting that in recent days, the hope had been that the Trump administration would take coronavirus more seriously in an effort to make it clear to the public and voters that they were managing the crisis.
It’s no secret that the president doesn’t like all this coronavirus testing. It’s showing that too many people are becoming infected. Contact tracing would help in local efforts to control an outbreak of the virus in a specific location. With adequate contact tracing, you wouldn’t have to shut down an entire state to slow the spread of the virus.
A positive test result for the coronavirus — if detected early enough — would keep the secondary infections down to a minimum as those infected would look to quarantine themselves. This means that there should be a lot more testing going on if we’re going to meaningfully slow the spread of the disease.
It just doesn’t make sense not to raise the level of spending for testing and contact tracing as we look to climb out of the hole we’re in.
Even if there is money left over from the last stimulus bill, much more is needed. As for funding the CDC, unless the administration wants to take responsibility for testing and contact tracing away from the agency and give it to some other agency, the CDC is the only game in town.
As for the bill itself, the two sides are already far apart.
While House Democrats passed a relief package at the end of May, McConnell has made it clear that the bill would go nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate.
It doesn’t appear that the House Democrats and Senate Republicans are anywhere close to having an agreed upon package, and any friction between GOP senators and the White House would only widen the quagmire.
The amounts we’re talking about are minimal in a trillion-dollar aid package. But they could make the difference between victory and defeat for Trump who must show progress in ending the crisis as soon as possible.
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