Congress debates U.S. readiness for coronavirus outbreak

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Washington is preparing for the deadly coronavirus outbreak to hit the U.S.

President Trump has asked Congress for billions of dollars to combat the disease, but some lawmakers don’t think that’s good enough.

“The administration’s on top of this,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA.

“I am very concerned that we are not prepared,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA.

Murray, the ranking member of the Senate Health Committee, said with 80,000 cases and 2,500 deaths worldwide, the U.S. has to be ready.

“We need to do a better job of making sure we have the diagnostics, the testing out across the country and be prepared for something that’s coming to us,” Murray said.

But Cassidy, a doctor, said with only 14 confirmed cases in the U.S., the administration is responding correctly.

“The efforts that have been taken so far are preventing a massive outbreak as much as you can say that you’re preventing it,” Cassidy said.

The Trump administration has asked Congress for $2.5 billion for vaccines, treatment and protective equipment.

Democrats were quick to criticize the request as insufficient, but Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, said it’s the right approach.

“It’s $2.5 billion,” said Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “If it’s not enough, we’ll appropriate more. We have to have a balance here.”

However, fellow Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, argued it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“We want to help you do your job,” Shelby told Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a Senate committee hearing. “But if you low-ball something like this, you’ll pay for it later.”

While the coronavirus threat is causing anxiety on Capitol Hill to skyrocket and stock markets to plummet, President Trump remained optimistic Tuesday during his trip to India.

“I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away,” Trump said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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