WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – If Congress fails to provide billions of dollars to tackle the next wave of the pandemic, the Biden administration says the US is headed for “a lot of unnecessary loss of life.” Yet the hunt for that money is in limbo, the latest victim of an election-year stalemate that has stalled or killed many Democratic priorities.
President Joe Biden’s appeal for funding for vaccines, tests and treatments has sparked opposition from Republicans, who have linked the fight with the precarious politics of immigration. Congress is in recess, and next steps are uncertain, despite White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha’s warning that “every day we wait” has harmful consequences.
Administration officials say they lack money to stock or even order the latest vaccines, tests and treatments. Also there is a lack of funds to reimburse doctors treating uninsured patients and help poor countries control the pandemic.
House and Senate Democrats are feuding over how to resolve the impasse and even which House should vote first. It’s an open question whether he’ll ever get the GOP votes he’ll need to legislate through the 50-50 Senate, and prospects in a narrowly divided House are also unclear.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., said last week, “a COVID relief package still needs to be passed.” “It’s very important.”
Optimists hope the measure could kick in once Congress returns next week. Pessimists say that without a quick fix, Democrats may not have enough leverage to pass the money until an early fall. When they can fill it into legislation, which the government will probably need to finance—a bill that would avert a federal shutdown, a pre-election distraction Republicans will be desperate to avoid.
This year has seen a plethora of sidelined Democratic initiatives, victimized by opposition from the GOP and rebellion by centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va. The casualties include voting rights, health care, the environment, taxes, gun bans, abortion rights, policing tactics and the 2021 Capitol storming investigation by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
While lawmakers have approved massive packages through September to finance federal agencies and help Ukraine counter Russia’s invasion, other priorities are dead or drifting, even with Democrats. The Congress running during the days is likely to decrease. Republicans are in favor of winning House control in November’s elections and may even usurp the Senate, and the Democrats’ disappointment is clear.
“So far it hasn’t moved,” Sen. Mazi Hirono, D-Hawaii, said of Biden’s latest $22.5 billion request for COVID-19, which he initially sent to Congress three months ago. “But then there is neither sensible gun law, nor the right to vote.”
“The 50-50 Senate sucks,” she said.
Officials say COVID money is urgently needed. Their warnings come with more than 1 million US deaths from the disease and a fresh version that is hospitalizing more than 100,000 Americans daily and killing more than 300. Both numbers are increasing.
Officials say the US is lagging behind other countries due to a lack of new funds that are already queuing up for essential supplies for fall and winter. This prompted Jha to plan for the occasion that Congress provides no new money, threatening painful choices about what to do if there are not enough vaccines or therapeutics for everyone’s need.
“It will be terrifying,” Jha recently told reporters. “I think if that happens we will see a lot of unnecessary loss of life.”
Congress has provided $370 billion to purchase supplies for research and other public health initiatives to combat the pandemic, according to administration data obtained by the Associated Press. About $14 billion of this was not spent or committed to contracts until April 5, documents show, serious money but an amount the administration says is less than the final requirement.
Most Republicans are skeptical about additional pandemic funding. “I find it hard to believe that there isn’t enough money and there isn’t enough resilience already,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R.N.D.
Counter-intuitively but surprisingly to the always perplexing Senate, a difficult puzzle plaguing Democrats is immigration.
Senate Republicans are demanding a vote to amend pandemic law with language upholding Trump-era restrictions that made it easier to block migrants from entering the US, citing COVID-19 Have given.
A federal judge has blocked Biden from ending those sanctions. Liberals want Congress to eliminate the clout, but moderate Democrats facing a tough election in both houses want to vote to keep it.
The result: Tasty splits between the two ideological factions of Democrats, and tough questions for party leaders about how to resolve and push for a pandemic package to be passed.
His task is complicated by disputes between House and Senate Democrats over why the COVID-19 fight remains unresolved.
Senate Democrats noted that the $15.6 billion pandemic deal was a bipartisan agreement during the House’s passage in March, until the chamber’s progressive Democrats rebelled against cutting spending to pay for it, putting the money away. Derailed. “We’re waiting for the House to send us something,” Schumer said last week.
House Democrats say that even if they do, the biggest hurdle will be the Senate, where 10 GOP votes will be needed to reach that chamber’s usual 60-vote limit. They noted that Republicans sought an immigration vote following a $10 billion deal between Schumer and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, in April to deal with COVID-19.
“We want to meet COVID-19, but the only obstacle right now is the United States Senate,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, recently told reporters.
That’s why Republicans are waiting for the Democrats’ next move.
“I would imagine at this point that more than half of our members would vote against it, no matter what. So the question is, what do you do to make it acceptable to 10 or 12 Republican senators,” said Sen. Roy, of Missouri. Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership. “And I don’t know.”