The measure would help the federal government, as well as state and local agencies, potentially prepare to respond to an outbreak and “encourage vaccine development.”
One source familiar with the request told Fox News that the administration was careful “not to sound alarm bells” over the supplemental spending request, but added, “It is better to have, certainly with finite funds.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has already tapped into an emergency infectious disease rapid response fund and is seeking to transfer more than $130 million from other HHS accounts to combat the virus but is pressing for more.
Among the needs is funding to reimburse the Pentagon, which is housing evacuees from China — who are required to undergo 14-day quarantines — at several military bases in California.
Democrats controlling the House wrote HHS Secretary Alex Azar earlier this month to request funds to help speed development of a coronavirus vaccine, expand laboratory capacity, and beef up screening efforts at U.S. entry points. Azar is slated to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and the U.S. response to the outbreak is sure to be a major topic.
The White House budget office, led by Russell Vought, is working with HHS to shape the request. There is a receptive audience for the request on Capitol Hill, though stand-alone emergency spending bills can be tricky to pass since they are invariably a target for lawmakers seeking add-ons.
The quickly spreading virus has slammed the economy of China, where the virus originated, and cases are rapidly increasing in countries such as South Korea, Iran and Italy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report