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Warren introduces bill to transfer funding from border wall to efforts to combat coronavirus

Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Elizabeth Warren.Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Massachusetts US Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced a bill to transfer funding from construction of the border wall to fund efforts to respond to the novel coronavirus that is spreading across the world and is expected to arrive at some point in America.

“Coronavirus poses a serious health, diplomatic, & economic threat, & we must be prepared to confront it head-on. So I’m introducing a bill to transfer all funding for @realDonaldTrump’s racist border wall” to the US Health and Human Services Department and the US Agency for International Development, said Warren, who is vying for the Democratic nomination for president, in a tweet Thursday morning.

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The text of Warren’s bill, “Prioritizing Pandemic Prevention Act," was attached to the tweet.

It said “any unobligated federal funds appropriated or otherwise made available to plan, develop, or construct a physical barrier along the international border between the United States and Mexico shall be immediately transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Agency for International Development for the express purpose of combating coronavirus disease.”

“Rather than use taxpayer dollars to pay for a monument to hate and division, my bill will help ensure that the federal government has the resources it needs to adequately respond to this emergency," Warren said in a statement.

President Trump, who is seeking a second term, on Wednesday declared that a widespread US outbreak of coronavirus isn’t inevitable, even as top federal health officials at his side warned Americans that more infections are coming.

Warren disclosed her border wall proposal during a CNN town hall program Wednesday evening. Democratic rivals she has been jousting with in recent weeks joined her in criticizing the Trump administration’s response to the threat.

Warren’s supporters on Thursday also touted her development of a detailed plan, released last month, to address infectious disease outbreaks.

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Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said at a Boston news conference Thursday, “The way Senator Warren has treated this issue has been phenomenal. She put a comprehensive plan on the Web a month ago. It’s exactly the kind of systemic thinking we need to deal with threats like this.”

He said the plan was science-based and was not just about coronavirus but about “preparedness overall. ... The 21st century is going to see threats like we’ve never seen before."

“I think she’s exactly the kind of leader we need for this kind of threat and we better step up to it," he said.

Dr. Kathryn Stephenson, a Harvard Medical School professor who helped to develop Warren’s plan, said that experts expect the virus to arrive at some point in America and “there’s really a chance that we’re going to see some disruption. We’re going to see schools potentially closing, businesses potentially closing, hospitals that are under strain. And I know -- I’m sure you do -- that people are worried.”

“In this type of situation, you need a leader who can govern in a crisis, and I think that person is Elizabeth Warren,” she said.

Material from Globe wire services was included in this report.


Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.