Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media on July 21, 2020, in Washington, DC.

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The Senate GOP coronavirus bill unveiled on Monday includes $1.75 billion for the creation of a new FBI building in Washington, DC.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Monday evening to ask the Trump administration “why they insisted on that provision.”

President Donald Trump has previously indicated that he wants a new commerically constructed FBI headquarters to replace its current building.

Democrats lambasted the provision, which they claim is a ploy to benefit Trump’s personal business interests. The White House has denied those claims.

The new building’s proposed location in downtown Washington is reportedly a short walk away from Trump International Hotel. 

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Senate Republicans released their coronavirus relief legislation on Monday after much anticipation, and buried in the bill is a non-pandemic related provision — $1.75 billion to build a new FBI headquarters in Washington, DC.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to be unaware of the demand in the package when pressed about the funding on Monday evening.

 

After being briefed by a reporter on the bill text, which allocates money “for the design and construction of a Washington, D.C. headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” McConnell then deferred the original question to the White House.

“Well, regarding that proposal, obviously we had to have an agreement with the administration in order to get started,” McConnell said Monday evening. “They’ll have to answer the question on why they insisted on that provision.”

“You’ll have to ask them why they insisted that be included,” McConnell emphasized. 

The question came up during a GOP news conference unveiling the new legislation, called the Heals Act, which authorizes a total of $1 trillion aimed at pandemic relief. The bill comes more than two months after House Democrats passed their own version in a $3 trillion package, dubbed the HEROES Act.

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Read more: Republicans just unveiled their $1 trillion plan for the next coronavirus stimulus. They want to send Americans more checks, beef up loans for small businesses, and funnel $100 billion to reopen schools.

The funding request for an FBI building was initially shut down by Senate Republicans, people familiar with the negotiations told the Washington Post, though was later included after officials in the Trump administration insisted on the condition. 

President Donald Trump has long expressed interest in and sparked controversy over developing a new FBI building to replace its headquarters, now situated in the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

“I’ve been encouraging them to build it,” Trump said at a White House briefing last week. “If you’re going to — you have a choice: You can renovate the existing building — but it’s not a good building — or you could take it down and build a great building for the FBI for 100 years and have it be incredible.”

The new building’s proposed location in downtown Washington is reportedly a short walk away from Trump International Hotel. 

Democrats immediately slammed Republicans and the Trump administration for the provision, claiming the money for constructing the building is to serve the president’s business interests and could instead be allocated toward helping struggling Americans amid the public health crisis.  

“They didn’t have money for food stamps, but they had money for an FBI building just so that they can diminish competition for the president’s hotel,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday evening.

The White House has denied that the creation of a new FBI building would be to protect Trump’s business interests. Plans to sell the president’s hotel in Washington have been under consideration by Trump’s company, according to The Washington Post.

“As President Trump has said, the FBI desperately needs a new building and this measure provides critical funding for this project that would keep the building responsibly near the Department of Justice,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said.

 

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