- The Washington Times
Friday, July 31, 2020

The White House on Friday defended inserting a $377 million request for West Wing renovations into Senate Republicans’ stalled coronavirus relief proposal, but said the item isn’t a deal breaker.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said many of the proposed renovations “pertain to safety protocols, filtration systems, enhanced communications ability and needs that we saw that were highlighted during the pandemic.”

“But make no mistake, [a] $377 million proposal will not stand in the way of ensuring that the American people get their [unemployment benefit] checks, that is the priority, [and] ensuring that Americans do not get evicted,” she said. “That is our Number One, Number Two goals.”

The $377 million proposal also would cover a new security screening facility in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. Previous administrations, including the Obama administration, had planned to carry out extensive West Wing renovations but postponed them.

Ms. McEnany said the three previous pandemic relief bills “had plenty of other things in them that were not related to COVID.” She cited a provision to lift spending caps on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, a proposal pushed by Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican.

The White House also insisted on a $1.75 billion provision for rebuilding the FBI headquarters in Washington, an item not sought by Senate Republican leaders. Ms. McEnany said rebuilding the FBI complex “has been a long-discussed issue.”

Republicans, in turn, have slammed the Democrats since mid-May for including provisions in their $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that they say aren’t directly related to the pandemic, in particular funding for cannabis.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended those provisions Friday, arguing that the cannabis provisions are tied to fighting the virus.

“This is a therapy that that has proven successful,” the California Democrat said. “It is by no means of the caliber of money, or misrepresentation, remodeling, the Federal Building is. Over a billion dollars so that another hotel doesn’t come in there and compete with the President’s hotel. That’s what that is all about. It has nothing to do with the coronavirus.”

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