WASHINGTON, D.C. — As health officials in Ohio continue to monitor potential Coronavirus cases across the state, lawmakers here in Washington quickly voted through an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill this week to supply more resources.
- All Ohio lawmakers voted for emergency funding
- Democrats concerned about Trump’s handling of response
- Republicans say situation is fluid
All of Ohio’s 16 U.S. House members and both U.S. senators supported it.
But there’s some disagreement over how President Trump and his administration are navigating this tricky virus.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said they haven’t been reassuring.
“I’m hopeful we can trust them,” Brown said in an interview. “I think the question is — what we want to hear is the public health professionals talk about the Coronavirus, not the politicians in the White House — the president or the vice president.”
On the other end of the aisle, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said having someone political, like Vice President Mike Pence, leading the response is necessary.
“The reason, I think, you want Vice President Pence to be ultimately pushing agencies to do the right thing is that no one else, other than the president, can really do that,” Portman said in a separate interview.
There continues to be press conferences and media events where federal health experts are providing updates, but Representative Tim Ryan (D, 13th Congressional District) said when Trump has spoken — and contradicted the experts on things like the fatality rate of the virus — it has not been helpful.
“It’s always disconcerting when you have the president saying one thing and the best public health people in the country saying something different, so I think we should focus on what the public health people are saying,” Ryan said.
Every Ohio lawmaker I spoke with said their top priority was putting politics aside and getting the emergency funding passed so some of those dollars can go straight to Ohio.
Moving forward, they said there’s still work that Congress and Trump can do to help.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls to our office from people who don’t have sick leave,” Brown said. “And they know if they have any symptoms that they miss work without pay, or they go in and get tested and they don’t have insurance. And I hope the president would speak strongly about anybody that needs to be tested can be tested for free.”
On Thursday, Brown joined a group of senators in writing to major U.S. employers and asking that they commit to not penalizing workers for following recommended health procedures related to the virus.
The emergency spending bill now heads to Trump for his signature.