Durbin: $2.5B for Coronavirus ‘a Wise Allocation’ But CDC Budget Cuts ‘Completely Backwards’

By Melanie Arter | February 25, 2020 | 1:39pm EST
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – President Donald Trump’s $2.5 billion supplemental budget request to deal with the coronavirus was “a wise allocation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Tuesday.

However, he said the president’s proposed cut to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are “completely backwards.”

“We are heartened by the fact that the number of reported cases that originated in the United States has remained at 14 for several weeks, but we’re realistic about it as well. As this spreads, as this virus spreads to other countries – Iran, Italy, and other places, the question is whether or not they will be aggressive in quarantining cases and reduce the spread beyond their borders. We still have to wait and see,” Durbin told reporters after a classified briefing on the coronavirus.

“At this point, the Trump administration has asked for slightly more than $2 billion in additional funds to deal with the coronavirus. I think that is a wise allocation,” he said. However, “The president’s request, his budget request that goes on October 1st to cut the funds for CDC and NIH is completely backwards. We’ve got to anticipate that more research will be needed not just with this supplemental and beyond, and I hope the president will reassess his budget request to Congress.”

When asked what he would say to Americans who are worried that an outbreak could happen at any second, the senator said, “I don’t believe that the threat to the United States is that imminent just based on what I have read, but I also believe that we should be worried. This could go on for months in terms of anticipating the spread beyond the countries that currently have it.”

When asked whether he was more or less confident in the Trump administration’s response after the briefing, Durbin said, “Some of the people at that table I would trust completely. Dr. Fauci is one of them. He has been through this so many times. He is an expert on the subject. In terms of some of the people in the budget end of this, I made my point earlier. You can’t come in and ask for a cut in the Center for Disease Controls starting October 1st in light of what we know now with this coronavirus.”

As to whether he’s happy with the supplemental request, Durbin said, “I don’t know if it’s enough. I don’t think anybody knows, but to talk about $2 billion at the outset here, that is not an unreasonable amount in light of everything we’re facing. 

“We want to upgrade the number of CDC employees who are responding to this across the United States. We’ve got to pay for the transportation of some people who may be vulnerable or infected in a safe way. This takes money, but it's money well spent if it protects the rest of America,” he said.

The explanation that the administration gave lawmakers “suggested about $2 billion plus,” but Durbin said he “took it from their explanation that they don’t know if four weeks from now we might ask for more.” 

“It really is that uncertain,” he said.


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