Biden administration requests $30 billion for COVID response
The Biden administration has requested $30 billion more to fuel the COVID response, according to sources familiar, but most Republicans — and some Democrats — are less than thrilled about the prospect of spending more money on the pandemic.
Why it matters: The request sets up a clash between lawmakers concerned about pandemic preparedness and those who are reluctant to spend more money against a backdrop of inflation and record-high federal debt.
The big picture: The Omicron wave of the pandemic may be winding down, but experts warn that another variant could be just around the corner, and the world needs to be prepared.
- Many have said now is the time to invest in next-generation treatments and vaccines, and that we need to have plenty of the existing tools on hand well before another surge begins.
- "You need to order within the next several months to have vaccines and therapeutics available for later this year," a senior administration official said. "You can't wait until the next surge."
Driving the news: "In a Tuesday conversation with congressional staff, HHS discussed the status of COVID response funds as well as the need for additional resources to support securing more life-saving treatments and vaccines, sustaining testing capacity, and investing in research and development of next-generation vaccines," an HHS spokesperson said.
- A source who was on the HHS call said the administration is asking for an additional $17.9 billion for vaccines and therapeutics, $4.9 billion for testing, $3 billion for to cover COVID care for the uninsured, and $3.7 billion to address future variants.
- "These resources would help us continue expanding the tools the country needs to stay ahead of the virus and help us move toward the time when COVID-19 will not disrupt our daily lives."
Yes, but: There's bipartisan skepticism around the need for more COVID funding, and Republicans in particular are concerned that the administration has mishandled the trillions it's already been given.
- "Most Republicans and a substantial amount of Dems think there's already enough out there through [the American Rescue Plan]," said a House Democrat familiar with the subject.
- "Failing to answer simple questions as to how their last 'COVID-19' spending binge has seemingly left our country less equipped to handle the virus, is the very reason not another dime of so-called 'COVID-relief' dollars should be handed over to this White House, regardless of how noble the cause may sound," House Budget Committee Ranking Member Jason Smith recently wrote in a Fox News op-ed.