The Senate Republican bill primarily focused on providing economic relief to Americans dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic includes nearly $2 billion for a new FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of millions of dollars for a White House renovation, ABC News reported.
The Trump administration is seeking $377 million to modernize the West Wing, which has not been fully upgraded since 1933. The money would also pay for security additions to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which could be used as the workplace for staffers while the West Wing is remodeled.
The justification from the White House is that the remodel will “increase the White House campus’s ability to detect, mitigate and alleviate external security and pandemic threats.”
The Obama administration planned similar remodeling in 2013, but never followed through. ABC News reported that unwillingness by past presidents to vacate the Oval Office for extended periods of time has contributed to the repeated and long-running delays.
The FBI building has received more attention and criticism, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed to struggle Monday to explain why $1.75 billion in a COVID-19 relief bill was being allocated to a seemingly unrelated project. The Kentucky senator ultimately opposed the provision.
“Let me speak for myself. I am opposed to non-germane amendments, whether it’s funding for the FBI building or, for example, in the House bill, whether it’s a tax cut for high-income earners in blue states or other non-germane amendments in the House bill like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants,” McConnell said, CNN reported. “When we get to the end of the process, I would hope all of the non-COVID related measures are out no matter what bill they were in at the start.”
There is still significant disagreement between Republicans and Democrats about what kind of aid, and how much, should be provided to Americans as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the economy, causing more than a million people to file new unemployment claims every week.
The addition of provisions unrelated to COVID-19 by both parties only adds to that disagreement, and could drag out a process of passing a bill that is already too slow for Americans who may be struggling to pay their bills or keep their businesses open.
Reuters reported that Americans owe $21.5 billion in past-due rent leading into the start of August, which could lead to a “staggering surge in homelessness unlike anything we have seen,” according to John Pollock, a Public Justice Center attorney and coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel.