On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that in February, White House officials grew enraged with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar when he requested $4 billion for his department to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus — an amount that the Trump administration believed was way too much.
“Azar … spoke to Russell Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, during Trump’s State of the Union speech on Feb. 4. Vought seemed amenable, and told Azar to submit a proposal,” wrote Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller. “Azar did so the next day, drafting a supplemental request for more than $4 billion, a sum that OMB officials and others at the White House greeted as an outrage. Azar arrived at the White House that day for a tense meeting in the Situation Room that erupted in a shouting match, according to three people familiar with the incident.”
“A deputy in the budget office accused Azar of preemptively lobbying Congress for a gigantic sum that White House officials had no interest in granting,” the report continued. “Azar bristled at the criticism and defended the need for an emergency infusion. But his standing with White House officials, already shaky before the coronavirus crisis began, was damaged further.”
Since that meeting, Congress has passed multiple rounds of stimulus to combat the economic and public health effects of the pandemic, with the most recent bill — the CARES Act — authorizing some $2 trillion in appropriations and another $4 trillion in Federal Reserve action.
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