Rep. Rosa DeLauro
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar defends Trump administration coronavirus plan.

This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. with information from President Trump’s evening press conference.

Washington – Rep. Rosa DeLauro took to task Wednesday the Trump administration’s point man on coronavirus response, slamming his plans to divert money from a federal heating assistance and other programs to pay for efforts to combat the virus.

She also said her appropriations subcommittee, which helps craft the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, will develop  its own response to the coronavirus budget.

“What has been submitted…is unacceptable,” DeLauro, D-3rd District, told HHS Secretary Alex Azar during an appropriations committee hearing on Wednesday.

Later in the day, President Donald Trump said he’s open to letting congressional appropriators like DeLauro develop their own emergency spending bill. The president also placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coronavirus response, a job that has been Azar’s.

As the sole witness at DeLauro’s hearing earlier in the day, Azar defended the Trump administration’s decision to allocate $2.5 billion to coronavirus response. About half of that money would come from new funding approved by Congress and the other half would be transferred from other programs.

Besides taking $37 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps many Connecticut residents, the Trump administration proposed shifting money earmarked for programs for the aged, the National Cancer Institute, substance abuse treatment, and other HHS programs.

“The $2.5 billion request has my complete and total support,” he said. “It is at levels that I think are appropriate.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro said she had serious concerns with Trump coronavirus plan.

But DeLauro said the two-page summary of the plan that the White House submitted to Congress appeared to be put together without much thought, and she contrasted it with a 28-page submission from the Obama administration on Ebola.

“I appreciate your frustration with the two-page letter being the documentation,” Azar said.

Although Democrats have been most vocal about the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, Republicans have also panned it, especially plans to shift more than $500 million from the Ebola program to COVID-19.

DeLauro said the House Appropriations Committee will put together an emergency spending bill that addresses lawmakers’ concerns.

Although Democrats have been most vocal about the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, Republicans have also panned it, especially plans to shift more than $500 million from the Ebola program to COVID-19.

In the Senate on Wednesday, Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. proposed spending at least $8.5 billion to combat coronavirus, also called  COVID-19.

That plan includes $4.5 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to try to contain an outbreak in the United States, $1 billion to develop and manufacture a vaccine, $1 billion to help other countries battle the coronavirus, and $2 billion to reimburse states for costs incurred in tackling the outbreak that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is expected.

In his afternoon press conference, Trump said he thought the $2.5 billion he proposed to fight coronavirus “is a lot.”

“Democrats…want much more than that,” Trump said. “We’ll take it.”

The president also said, “with regard to the money, they can do whatever they want.”

Trump continue to minimize fears of a U.S. spread of COVID-19, even as a new cases of the disease were confirmed Wednesday, bringing the number in the United States to 60.

“Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the to the American people is very low,” Trump said.

He said he was surprised to find out recently that the flu kills 25,000 to 69,000 Americans each year. But the death rate from flu and pneumonia is much lower than the death rate from coronavirus, which health officials have pegged at 2%.

Meanwhile Anne Schuchat, the principle deputy director of the CDC, said “we are expecting more cases and this is the time to prepare.”

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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9 Comments

  1. Someone needs to tell Rosa comparing the Ebola virus to the Coronavirus is apples & oranges. The Coronavirus is new and Ebola has been around since 1976, long before Obama was president. Coronavirus spreads like the flu and Ebola spreads to people by contact with the skin or bodily fluids of an infected animal, like a monkey, chimp, or fruit bat. Then it moves from person to person the same way. It started in Congo and was contained in Africa. It’s a shame people like DeLauro feel the need to politicize everything and stir up animosity between Americans. Shame on her ignorance.

  2. This is a more useful discussion than other articles I have read as it contains facts and give-and-take about the best ways to handle funding for this issue instead of highlighting political differences with few facts. I wonder if a) the existing funding for ebola needs to be kept at the same levels or if it is a case of wanting to hold on to existing budget line items, b) the whole home heating oil budget was used given it was such a warm winter or if it was a case of wanting to hold on to existing budget line items… I have no idea. Thank you for the story.

  3. Its unfortunate that Delauro, Pelosi, Schumer, et al, immediately tried to use the virus to cash in politically. It would have been better if they pledged to work with the administration to coordinate efforts to minimize the impact of the virus on the American people.

    1. Mark,
      You have to admit when Trump reacts so incompetently, folks are very concerned. When Trump says no worries, he is sure it will be gone very soon, and wait until April when it gets hot and it will surely be gone, and that we are very close to a vaccine when experts say we are a year out, are you okay with those leadership actions? I sure ain’t. His buddy Rush Limbaugh said “I’m dead right on this, The coronavirus is the common cold, folks”. Seriously? This, along with Trump completely hacking away in budget of all the health related line items, very, very disconcerting to say the least, in regards to his thought processes and priorities. This could be the greatest crisis of his Presidency. He and his supporters rave about how intelligent he is; I personally feel he is just the opposite.

    2. Mark,
      You have to admit when Trump reacts so incompetently, folks are very concerned. When Trump says no worries, he is sure it will be gone very soon, and wait until April when it gets hot and it will surely be gone, and that we are very close to a vaccine when experts say we are a year out, are you okay with those leadership actions? I sure ain’t. His buddy Rush Limbaugh said “I’m dead right on this, The coronavirus is the common cold, folks”. Seriously? This, along with Trump completely hacking away in budget of all the health related line items, very, very disconcerting to say the least, in regards to his thought processes and priorities. This could be the greatest crisis of his Presidency. He and his supporters rave about how intelligent he is; I personally feel he is just the opposite.

      1. JN – you do know that funding for CDC was increased but you said he hacked away at the budget which is not accurate.

    1. How do you feel about Trump’s socialist $30 billion payments to U.S. farmers already given, and he now is proposing another $30 billion potentially? (Which he amazingly still is lying that it is “paid for out of the massive tariff money coming into the USA”).

  4. Actually this piece said $1B to other countries. Regardless, I would agree with you on letting them fend for themselves.

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