Bipartisan lawmakers call for immediate vote on COVID-19 vaccine distribution package

Bipartisan lawmakers call for immediate vote on COVID-19 vaccine distribution package
© Greg Nash

Members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus are calling for an immediate vote on a $160 billion COVID-19 vaccine distribution package in an effort to direct funding to the matter as soon as possible as Congress continues the reconciliation process on a broader package.

The measure reflects the language in the Biden administration rescue plan on vaccines and the numbers that have been discussed by congressional negotiations.

In addition to distributing federal funds toward vaccination efforts, the package would also boost overall funding.

ADVERTISEMENT

The package includes $20 billion for the National Vaccine Program’s partnership with states, tribes and territories; $50 billion for expansion of testing; $30 billion for the disaster relief fund; $5 billion for Defense Production Act Title III, which provides the administration broad authority to allocate funds for certain policies and national security purposes; $5 billion for personal protective equipment for first responders, independent physicians offices and dentists; $15 billion to rebuild and restock the National Strategic Stockpile and $35 billion for the Provider Relief Fund, which would require 20 percent to be set away for rural hospitals.

Members of the bipartisan group of 56 members, led by Reps. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (D-N.J) and Tom ReedTom ReedThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate path uncertain after House approves Jan. 6 panel Lawmakers brace for battles with colleagues as redistricting kicks off Hundreds of businesses sign on to support LGBTQ rights legislation MORE (R-N.Y.)‚ argue it’s critical for immediate investment to advance vaccine deployment and testing nationwide as the country continues to grapple with slowing the coronavirus pandemic.

Gottheimer said that the relief package the Problem Solvers helped negotiated late last year was a “down payment” on what the country needs to battle the coronavirus, adding that he believes they can’t afford to wait to allocate the resources needed to disperse the vaccine nationwide.

“Unless a new bipartisan deal is struck, I will continue to support the reconciliation process for more COVID-19 relief. I believe we must allocate additional resources for direct checks to families and supplemental unemployment, investment for state and local government and schools, and broadband and child care,” he said in a statement.

“That said, I believe we should immediately address, without delay, the need for boosting vaccine distribution and testing in New Jersey and nationwide. We simply cannot afford to wait weeks upon weeks to get more vaccines out the door.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Reed echoed Gottheimer’s calls, adding that while he is supportive of continuing the bipartisan talks, sooner action may need to be taken.

“We simply do not have time to spare when the lives of the American people are at stake as new variants of the virus are emerging daily. For the sake of protecting the lives of our fellow Americans, we must unite and act now in support of vaccines,” he said.

“By quickly increasing federal funding for testing, vaccine distribution and other key initiatives, we can get more shots in arms, safely reopen our economy and finally defeat this virus. Congress and the Biden administration must work together to immediately pass this vaccine-boosting package and prioritize the health and safety of the American people.”

The calls from lawmakers come shortly after Senate Democrats approved a budget resolution early Friday morning, which will allow them to take action on coronavirus relief legislation without bipartisan support.