Mar 16, 2022 - Health

White House fights for COVID funding amid waning interest

Illustration of White House and Capitol

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House is intensifying pleas for new emergency COVID funding, warning Tuesday that a continued standoff in Congress on the matter will result in cutbacks in the U.S. pandemic response as early as next week.

Why it matters: With many Americans and lawmakers eager to move on from the health crisis, the Biden administration is fighting an uphill battle trying to convince Congress that $22.5 billion in additional spending is worth it.

  • Administration officials fear the consequences of being caught short if a new, more dangerous COVID variant were to emerge and needed treatments, testing and vaccines don't materialize.

Catch up quick: Last week, Congress passed a $1.5 trillion government spending bill after stripping out a pared-down $15.6 billion request for COVID funds. Some House Democrats rebelled against a leadership plan to pay for about half of the sum by clawing back unallocated state and local pandemic relief.

Driving the news: Officials said Tuesday that without the requested funds, the federal government will delay buying "hundreds of thousands" of monoclonal antibody treatments and instead cut state allocations of the drug by 30% starting next week to stretch supplies.

  • The White House also said it would start cutting back on a COVID-19 program to test, treat and vaccinate the uninsured, pull back on disease surveillance and stop buying oral antiviral treatments like Pfizer's Paxlovid.

Yes, but: Republicans doubled down on their reluctance to support more funding on Tuesday, the Washington Post writes.

The big picture: This comes amid signs from Europe that another COVID wave may be heading our way.

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