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White House seeks to freeze funds for testing and coronavirus testing in relief bill, report says

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U.S. President Donald Trump holds swabs as he speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC on April 19, 2020.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

The White House is trying to block billions of dollars for coronavirus testing and contact tracing in the next stimulus bill, according to a new report in the Washington Post, even as infections rise across the country and Americans face long wait times to receive test results amid high demand.

The Trump administration also wants to block billions of dollars that would be used to strengthen the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pentagon and the State Department to fight the pandemic, the Post reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the proceedings.

The White House declined CNBC’s request for comment.

Some GOP lawmakers, angered by the administration’s stance, are pushing back and trying to keep the $ 25 billion for testing and tracing in the bill, people involved in the negotiations told The Post. Some White House officials believe new funds should not be allocated for testing, as previous assistance funds remain unused.

While switching to block test aid, the Trump administration is trying to use the legislation to fund priorities unrelated to the pandemic, such as a new FBI building, according to the Post.

The Post report comes just hours after a New York Times article detailed how the White House sought to shift responsibility to deal with the pandemic to state governments with disastrous results. The Times report was based on interviews with state and administration officials as well as emails and documents.

President Trump has publicly called the coronavirus testing a “double-edged sword” and even suggested at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that officials should slow down testing. White House officials later said Trump was joking.

However, the Times report portrays a president who feels stuck in testing because the number of cases inevitably rises as more people are tested, jeopardizing the reopening of the economy and potentially damaging his. chances of re-election.

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to unveil a coronavirus relief plan next week, when the Senate returns from its two-week July 4 recess. The republican last week said that “children in school, work and health care will likely be the focus of the bill.”

Leaders in the Democratic-held House and the GOP-controlled Senate acknowledged earlier this month that they must approve more aid to fight the spread of the deadly disease raid while supporting the economy and by educating students.

The White House deliberations come as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to climb nationwide. Dozens of states have experienced resurgences after their economies reopened. According to the Covid Act Now monitoring project, only nine US states have the virus under control and only three are on track to contain Covid-19.

Saturday, the United States reported 71,558 new cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, marking the second day in a row the country has recorded at least 70,000 new cases. Average daily new cases are up 18.34% nationwide from a week ago, according to CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data.

The coronavirus outbreak has spread around the world, with more than 14 million confirmed cases and more than 597,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The United States has recorded more than 3.6 million cases and at least 139,302 deaths, according to the latest figures, more than any other country.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

Jacob Pramuk of CNBC contributed to this report.

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