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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement Thursday outlining their demands for coronavirus funding, including a guarantee that the eventual vaccine is affordable.
The big picture: Pelosi criticized the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak, calling it "chaotic" and chiding President Trump for "name-calling" and "playing politics." She added at a press conference that bipartisan congressional leaders are nearing an agreement on emergency funding.
Pelosi also knocked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar for testifying on Capitol Hill Wednesday that he could not "control the price" of the vaccine because the administration "needs the private sector to invest" in order to develop it.
- "This would be a vaccine that is developed with taxpayer dollars," Pelosi said. "We think that should be available to everyone, not dependent on Big Pharma. I guess yesterday when the secretary made that ill-advised statement, he was wearing his pharma hat, which he wore before he came here."
- Context: Prior to joining the Trump administration, Azar was a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.
Details: Pelosi and Schumer said in their joint statement that additional funding Congress grants to the Trump administration to combat the coronavirus must include the following provisions:
- The president cannot transfer these new funds to anything other than the coronavirus and fighting infectious diseases;
- Vaccines are affordable and available to all that need it; and
- Interest-free loans are made available for small businesses impacted by the outbreak; and
- The state and local governments are reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak.