Biden administration eyes $30 billion for COVID-19 funding in talks with Congress
The Biden administration signaled it will request $30 billion in supplemental COVID-19 funding during discussions with Congress on Tuesday, including money for vaccines, testing and treatment.
The discussions come ahead of a March 11 deadline for a government funding package, which could serve as a vehicle for more COVID-19 funds.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters he spoke to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday and is expecting a $30 billion request.
“I talked to Secretary Becerra today, and I think they’re going to be proposing a $30 billion supplemental,” Blunt said, according to audio provided by his office.
He noted that he had previously questioned if money already provided was still available but said: “Frankly in the categories they’re asking for money, the other money has all been spent or committed to the purposes it was appropriated for.”
An HHS spokesperson confirmed the discussions, saying agency leaders “discussed the status of COVID response funds as well as the need for additional resources to support securing more life-saving treatments and vaccines, sustaining testing capacity, and investing in research and development of next-generation vaccines.”
“These resources would help us continue expanding the tools the country needs to stay ahead of the virus and help us move toward the time when COVID-19 will not disrupt our daily lives,” the statement added.
The statement made no mention of additional funding for global vaccinations, an area where Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for more action.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as other Democratic lawmakers, has been pushing for $17 billion for global vaccinations.
Asked about the COVID-19 funding talks in general on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said “what we’re trying to do now is stay ahead” of the virus.
Some congressional Republicans have expressed opposition to more funding, though, pointing to the billions already allocated.
“It is ridiculous to think that Congress should go along with such a request,” Rep. Jason Smith (Mo.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, wrote in a Fox News op-ed last week. “The Administration’s own trail of inflationary fueled spending over the last year has hardly emboldened Americans’ confidence that government is a good steward of their tax dollars.”
This story was updated at 4:49 p.m.
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