President Donald Trump is speaking out after it was revealed that the GOP's HEALS Act stimulus proposal includes nearly $2 billion for a new FBI building. The provision, which sits among several other measures meant to aid the hurting economy and the millions of Americans struggling to stay afloat, has been met with opposition not only from Democrats but also Republicans, whom Trump suggested "should go back to school and learn."
"It's the best piece of property in Washington. I'm very good at real estate. So I said, we'll build a new FBI building. Let's build a new FBI building, either a renovation of existing or even better would be a new building," the president said at the White House Wednesday, according to the Hartford Courant. "Republicans should go back to school and learn. You need a new building."
According to The Hill, the provision is tucked into a 177-page appropriations section. It would provide $1.75 billion "for the design and construction of a Washington, D.C. headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation." The measure was included at the request of the Trump administration, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who told reporters that the administration "insisted that be included."
It remains unclear why exactly the funding was included in a bill meant to target coronavirus relief. Some, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, suggested that the funds were included due to the FBI building sitting near Trump-owned real estate. These parties hypothesize that the president wishes to avoid the building being torn down and leaving room for a competitor to sweep up "prime real estate." Asked about the reasoning for the inclusion, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany could not provide a clear cut answer, stating, "it's a part of one of the President's priorities, and it's been a priority for several months," according to CNN. Pressed for a more straight-forward answer, McEnany simply said that it is "not a deal-breaker."
Despite that claim, the funding has proven to be a controversial inclusion in the legislation, even with McConnell. Addressing the ongoing negotiations, he told reporters that he is "opposed to non-germane amendments," directly referencing the $1.75 billion. He said that when negotiations conclude, he hopes "all of the non-Covid related measures are out no matter what bill they were in at the start."
It remains unclear if the funding for a new FBI building will manage to slip into a final version of the HEALS Act, which is currently being negotiated on Capitol Hill. According to McEnany, Trump's priority remains "unemployment benefits."