As concerns rise about the outbreak spreading in the U.S., the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate argued the $1.25 billion in emergency funding sought by the president is inadequate. With the proposal, Warren not only aims to confront a budding public health crisis but also looks to knock a Trump policy she has called racist and divisive.
"The coronavirus outbreak poses serious health, diplomatic, and economic threats to the United States, and we must be prepared to confront it head-on," Warren said in a statement. "Rather than use taxpayer dollars to pay for a monument to hate and division, my bill will help ensure that the federal government has the resources it needs to adequately respond to this emergency."
Warren is among the Democratic presidential candidates who have focused more on the coronavirus this week. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first potential community transmission of the virus in the U.S. — a person who did not have the travel history or contact with a patient that would have put them at risk.
Top presidential candidates — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Warren — have criticized the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus. Warren and Bloomberg have already put out out plans to improve responses to public health crises.
At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has requested $8.5 billion in emergency funding to combat the outbreak. Trump, at a news conference Wednesday announcing Vice President Mike Pence would lead the coronavirus response, said "if they want to give us more money, we'll take the money."
The legislation Warren announced Thursday reads:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any unobligated Federal funds appropriated or otherwise made available to plan, develop or construct a physical barrier along the international border between the United States and Mexico shall be immediately transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Agency for International Development for the express purpose of combating coronavirus disease (COVID-19)."
In both fiscal years 2019 and 2020, Congress appropriated $1.375 billion for border barriers — much less than Trump wanted for the project. But the president has diverted billions more toward construction from military accounts during his tenure.
Warren's office said her bill would apply to both the money doled out by Congress and the repurposed funds.
The legislation is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.