GOP Leader McCarthy Says Trump's Coronavirus Funding Request Is 'a Little Low' as New Cases Detected in U.S.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) characterized the $2.5 billion requested by the Trump administration in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis as "a little low," while the number of U.S. cases increased Wednesday.

The administration's response to what health officials warn could soon become a global pandemic has been the subject of bipartisan scorn in recent days. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a new U.S. case Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 60.

"I think $2 billion is a little low, I think we're probably looking at $4 billion in this process, having spoken to Democrat House members from Appropriations," said McCarthy to reporters on Wednesday. "This is not a time to play politics. We want to make sure we have all the funding needed."

Lawmakers from both parties had criticized the budget Tuesday, with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) calling it "lowball" and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) accusing the administration of "towering and dangerous incompetence" before suggesting a budget of $8.5 billion instead.

President Donald Trump suggested that funding could increase during a White House press conference Wednesday, where he also announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be leading the administration's response to the virus.

"Congress is talking to us about funding and we're getting far more than we asked for and I guess the best thing to do is take it," said Trump.

"My attitude [is] if Congress wants to give us the money so easy... wasn't so easy with the wall, but we got that one done," continued Trump. "If they want to give us the money, we'll take the money, we'll just do a good job with it."

Trump, Pence and McCarthy
President Donald Trump speaks as Vice President Mike Pence stands to his right and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to his left during a press conference at the White House on January 4, 2019. Alex Wong/Getty

CDC officials recently indicated that an increased spread of the virus in the U.S. is now inevitable.

"It's not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters Tuesday. "We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad."

Trump disagreed with that assessment during his Wednesday press conference, saying the risk to Americans was "very low" while insisting that the administration was "prepared" to deal with the emergency if the situation worsens.

"Well I don't think it's inevitable, it probably will, it possibly will," said Trump. "It may get bigger, it may get a little bigger, it may not get bigger at all. But regardless of what happens, we're totally prepared."

White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere suggested that criticism of the administration's response was "a political effort by the Left and some in the media to distract and disturb the American people with fearful rhetoric and palace intrigue" in a statement to Newsweek on Tuesday.

Trump agreed that his opponents were attempting to use the coronavirus against him during the press conference but denied that the CDC were involved in the alleged plot, calling the agency "professional."