As members of Congress continue to negotiate over the provisions of a planned Coronavirus relief bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that he wants to see one particularly controversial provision — money to construct a new FBI headquarters in D.C. — taken out of the bill. According to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the FBI building money was initially included in the Senate GOP’s Coronavirus relief package at the direct request of the Trump administration. Democratic leaders have been concerned that the inclusion was motivated by potential financial gain for the president — the D.C. headquarters of the FBI is adjacent to Trump’s D.C. hotel, and keeping the FBI in the spot could prevent a competing hotel from going up that could affect Trump’s business.
Before Trump was elected, officials at his company feared a competing hotel if the FBI moved its headquarters. Now Trump is trying to get money in the coronavirus relief bill to keep the FBI building where it is – and keep away any competitors. https://t.co/zNGFNDLDME
— Dan Eggen (@DanEggenWPost) July 27, 2020
The money designated for the FBI building in the original Coronavirus relief legislation stands at $1.75 billion. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, after a meeting between Republican Senators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, McConnell told reporters:
‘I am opposed to non-germane amendments, whether it’s funding for the FBI building or, for example, in the House bill, whether it’s a tax cut for high-income earners in blue states or other non-germane amendments in the House bill like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants. When we get to the end of the process, I would hope all of the non-COVID-related measures are out, no matter what bill they were in at the start.’
GOP Sen. Ron Johnson to me on WH demand for $1.75B for new FBI building in DC. “I just don't understand it. That struck me as pretty strange. I heard about it, maybe they got some rationale for it. I wonder why that would be something they insist on in this package is beyond me”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 28, 2020
To be clear — financial support for undocumented immigrants is not unrelated to the Coronavirus crisis, despite McConnell’s claims. They’re not magically spared from the effects of the pandemic just because of their undocumented status. Still, McConnell’s break with the White House over including money for the FBI building is notable, and it represents a potential point of contention as negotiations proceed.
“I’m not sure that it is, is it?” McConnell said when asked why money for the FBI building is in GOP recovery bill. Asked later about the $1.75B for the building, McConnell said it was an admin demand. “They’ll have to answer the question on why they insisted on that provision”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 27, 2020
Mnuchin only gave a vague answer when reporters asked him after the Tuesday lunch whether the FBI building money would stay in the bill. He commented:
‘We’re looking at everything in the bill.’
The Republican coronavirus stimulus proposal includes $1.75 billion in funds for the design and construction of a new FBI headquarters at the request of the Trump administration. https://t.co/pzXs8IkKu9
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 28, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is among those who have been blunt in their condemnations of the FBI building money ever getting included in the first place. After a Monday meeting with Mnuchin, she exclaimed to reporters:
‘They don’t have money for food stamps, but they have money for an FBI building just so that they can diminish competition for the president’s hotel.’
Senate Republicans snuck into their COVID proposal nearly $2B in taxpayer funds for a new FBI building whose location will increase the value of the Trump hotel.
Senate GOP is rewarding President Trump and his family’s business interests but not essential workers. pic.twitter.com/bvZYEBWkt5
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 28, 2020
Schumer told reporters on the same day:
‘They managed to have enough money for $2 billion for the FBI headquarters that benefits Trump hotel, and they say they have no money for food assistance. What the heck is going on?.. We just found out [the FBI building money] was in [the bill] as we read it.’
— CNBC (@CNBC) July 27, 2020
While Republicans in Congress haggle over whether or not to include a huge sum of money that could financially benefit the president, Americans are struggling. A $600 a week add-on to unemployment benefits is expiring at the end of July, while observers estimate that millions of Americans across the country are facing possible eviction amidst the pandemic-related economic upheaval.
For two months, Americans have watched their loved ones die and get sick. Millions have lost jobs, and now millions face eviction. And for two months McConnell has been laser-focused on making sure you can’t sue your boss for catching the plague at work. https://t.co/XGbEITSyac
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 28, 2020