US Senate reaches bipartisan deal on $10 billion in COVID-19 funding

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Monday reached a bipartisan pandemic relief funding agreement, setting $10 billion for additional tests, treatments and vaccines.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Utah GOP Senator Mitt Romney released separate statements Monday afternoon announcing the compromise, though Schumer was disappointed that negotiators failed to reach agreement on billions in global COVID-19 aid.

“Although we were unable to reach agreement on international assistance in this new agreement, many Democrats and Republicans have committed to pursuing a second supplement later this spring,” Schumer said in his statement. “I intend for the Senate to consider a bipartisan international appropriation package that could include additional aid for Ukraine as well as funding to address COVID-19 and food insecurity around the world.”

Romney urged his fellow Republicans to back the deal, saying the new bill will be paid by rescheduling funding for past COVID-19 relief legislation that has yet to be spent.

“It is important to note that this bill includes dollar-for-dollar offsets and will not cost the American people a single additional dollar,” he said in a statement.

Romney did not rule out continuing to discuss international vaccine assistance with Democrats, saying he was “willing to explore a fiscally responsible solution to support global efforts in the weeks ahead.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement shortly after the deal calling on Congress to pass the legislation “swiftly.”

The Biden administration, she said, would continue to discuss with lawmakers ways to “fund our remaining domestic needs” and “build bipartisan support for a funding package of our global response to COVID-19.”

Less than half of Biden’s claim

The total $10 billion in funding announced Monday is less than half of the Biden administration’s $22.5 billion demand Congress for the beginning of March.

The deal would provide $9.25 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority within the US Department of Health and Human Services.

At least $5 billion of this funding would go to research, production and purchase of therapeutics, with at least $750 million for research and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines to treat new variants. of the virus.

The remaining money would go to the purchase and distribution of tests and vaccines.

The announcement comes nearly four weeks after Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to shoot a $15.6 billion bipartisan agreement of a much larger government funding bill despite the objections of many lawmakers.

This proposal was dropped because a portion of the new spending was paid for by withdrawing previously approved COVID-19 funds for state governments that had not yet transitioned from federal accounts to certain states.

Pelosi has yet to release a statement supporting the Senate deal.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, told a press conference Thursday that the lower $10 billion prize that set aside billions for global vaccine efforts was “not enough money.”

“It’s shameful,” Pelosi said. “It’s not going to last us after, probably, June 1st.”

The legislation pays for all new spending by reprogramming previously approved COVID-19 funding, including $2.31 billion from the Transportation Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program, $1.93 billion from the Grants Program for operators of closed sites from the Small Business Administration, $1.873 billion from the US Treasury Department. Small Business Credit Initiative, $1.6 billion in unspent U.S. Department of Agriculture pandemic relief from two previous bills, $900 million in economic disaster loans for small businesses , $887 million from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Local Assistance and Tribal Coherence Fund, and $500 million from the Department of Education’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

Neither the Senate nor the House has set a deadline for voting on bipartisanship OK. Both chambers are due to leave Washington, DC, for a two-week spring break at the end of the week.

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