President Donald Trump may have lashed out at the GOP over the inclusion of nearly $2 billion for a new FBI headquarters in the first draft of the HEALS Act, but that hasn't stopped his administration from making its own renovation requests. On Thursday, the administration stated it wants $377 million of the upcoming relief bill to modernize the West Wing of the White House.
The money was already included in the draft aid legislation from Senate Republicans, according to AP News. The funds would also cover a new security screening facility for the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex. The administration says the White House work would "increase the White House campus's ability to detect, mitigate and alleviate external security and pandemic threats." Interestingly, the request has drawn comparatively little scrutiny compared to that of the proposal for a new FBI building.
The General Services Administration noted that the last time the West Wing was fully modernized was in 1933. The GSA maintains most of the White House complex and would almost certainly be in charge of the upgrades. Previous administrations had planned their own upgrades, including former President Barack Obama in 2013. None have managed to be carried out, due largely to the fact that no previous president has wanted to give up the Oval Office for the months, or more, that would require for the renovations to take place.
GSA press secretary Pamela Pennington said that as a result of the delays, "the building's infrastructure has continued to deteriorate and the need for updating has only increased. Further, this project is even more necessary given the current challenges as a result of COVID-19 and the need for modern HVAC systems to ensure proper circulation within the workspace."
Given the progress the HEALS Act has made overall, it's uncertain at this point if the funding will be approved by Congress. Even if it is, the results of the November election could halt plans altogether. Pennington did add that if the funding is approved, design and site work would begin almost immediately, "but an actual project schedule is yet to be determined."
The GOP-controlled Senate has repeatedly stated that a second stimulus check is a priority, and is aiming to get one passed through Congress before their Aug. 7 recess. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also floated the idea of passing several smaller stimulus packages to address more immediate problems, like unemployment, with priority.