Coronavirus: Congressional leaders strike roughly $8 billion bipartisan emergency funding deal

Rebecca Shabad and Frank Thorp V and Alex Moe

Congressional leaders in the House and Senate on Wednesday reached a bipartisan deal on a roughly $8 billion emergency funding bill to fight the coronavirus that has been spreading throughout the United States, according to Democratic and Republican appropriators.

The deal would provide $7.8 billion to fight the coronavirus and would include a mandatory funding authorization for $500 million over a 10-year period to be used toward a remote healthcare program.

Soon after the agreement's overall framework was released, but before the legislation's text was unveiled, two Democratic leadership sources told NBC that the House is expected to vote on the deal later in the day. It will need two-thirds of the House to pass it and leadership expects it to pass with bipartisan support.

“This should not be about politics; this is about doing our job to protect the American people from a potential pandemic," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby. "We worked together to craft an aggressive and comprehensive response that provides the resources the experts say they need to combat this crisis. I thank my colleagues for their cooperation and appreciate President Trump’s eagerness to sign this legislation and get the funding out the door without delay.”

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Democrats said that the package is nearly seven times the amount that Trump had asked Congress to approve. The legislation would provide more than $2 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for public health funding for prevention, preparedness and response.

It also would allocate more than $3 billion to a public health emergency fund and the National Institutes of Health for research and development of vaccines, treatment and testing of the coronavirus. The bill would also provide nearly $1.3 billion to help protect the health of Americans living abroad from the coronavirus.

A House Democratic aide said that the legislation would provide more than "$300 million to help ensure that, when a vaccine is developed, Americans can receive it regardless of their ability to pay."

"The legislation ensures that the federal government will only pay a fair and reasonable price for coronavirus vaccines and drugs and provides HHS the authority to ensure that they are affordable in the commercial market," the aide said.

Trump had submitted a $2.5 billion request to Congress to combat the virus, but Democrats quickly said that that amount would be insufficient. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., responded with an $8.5 billion proposal. Schumer said Tuesday that he expected the final deal to be between $7 billion and $8 billion.

The virus has killed at least nine people in the U.S. and over 3,100 worldwide.

As chair of the president’s task force on the virus, Vice President Mike Pence participated Tuesday in the luncheons held by Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans. And top administration officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, testified before a key Senate committee Tuesday morning.

Trump said separately at an event in Washington Tuesday morning, "It looks like they're going to give us $8.5 billion," and added, "I think I should say, 'I'll take it.'"