Senate Republicans oppose Biden’s $22.5 billion COVID-19 relief request
Senior Senate Republicans, including the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, say they do not support the Biden administration’s request for another $22.5 billion to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Appropriations panel, on Thursday said he doesn’t support doling out another $22.5 billion for COVID-19 relief when billions of dollars in federal aid remain unspent.
“No, I don’t,” he said when asked if he thought the administration’s request is warranted. “I think that we ought to determine — and we’ve asked the administration — how much unspent money is there. There are billions of dollars unspent.
“The American people need an accounting on how much is left. Let’s spend that first before we start borrowing more,” he added.
Shelby made his comments a day after the acting White House budget director, Shalanda Young, sent a letter to Capitol Hill requesting $22.5 billion to address “immediate needs to avoid disruption to ongoing COVID response efforts over the next few months.”
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) said Shelby’s view is “very widely” held in the Senate GOP conference and predicted there would be strong Republican resistance to adding $22.5 billion in new COVID-19 relief to a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package negotiators are trying to wrap up by March 11.
“There’s a general belief that there’s a lot of money out there still floating around and before we put more out, we need to get an accounting for that,” Thune said. “And I think that includes even people who otherwise might be inclined to support some of the things that would be included there.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a conservative member of the GOP conference, on Thursday warned against adding to the deficit and possibly further fueling inflation.
“We see inflation galloping across the country. That is caused by the trillions in new spending and trillions in new debt the Democrats have ran through. Just this week, President Biden gave a State of the Union address complaining about inflation but it seems he has no idea where it comes from,” he said.
“When it comes to COVID relief funds, the Democrats have no idea what’s been spent already. There are billions still unspent and everyone acknowledges there are billions in fraud on top of that,” he added.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, told reporters on Thursday that the additional funding request “is absolutely necessary” and predicted that Congress would have to spend even more than that to help treat the ongoing pandemic.
“In fact, we probably will need more as we need more therapies,” Pelosi said.
“One of the pieces of this is to buy the pills,” she added, referring to antiviral pills.
“This is science, this is going forward, so I would hope that they would see the wisdom of the science in terms of what we need for COVID because the last thing we need is more transmission,” she said of Republicans opposed to new COVID-19 spending.
Updated at 12:17 p.m.