Romney says Dems to send him new COVID-19 funding proposal Wednesday
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he is expecting to get a new proposal from Democrats on COVID-19 funding later on Wednesday, as the White House pressures lawmakers to act.
“The White House did provide a listing of money that’s not been spent, and the Democrat leadership is sending over today a proposal and I’ll take a look at that and see where we stand,” Romney told reporters on Wednesday.
He said he did not know what is in the proposal because he had not seen it yet, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that he was working with Romney and other GOP senators to find new ways to pay for the COVID-19 funds.
“I’m working with Senator Romney and other Republicans in good faith to find some pay-fors that are acceptable to Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate,” Schumer said Tuesday.
Senate Republicans are insisting that any COVID-19 spending be paid for by repurposing money from previous relief packages.
A group of House Democrats previously objected to one of the offsets, using a small portion of aid to states from a previous relief bill, leading to the COVID-19 funding to stall with no clear path forward.
A new proposal, potentially with new offsets, could help break the stalemate, though the details remain to be seen.
The White House is warning that it is already having to cut back on its COVID-19 response given Congress’s failure to provide funding.
Officials say they do not have enough money to buy additional vaccine doses for all Americans if another round of boosters is required (though there is enough for the immunocompromised and seniors).
The distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments to states was cut by 35 percent, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said Wednesday. A fund to pay for tests and treatments for uninsured people is also out of money.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients also pushed back on the argument from GOP senators that they have not been given enough information about how previous COVID-19 money has been spent.
Zients held up a binder at a press briefing to show all the pages sent to Congress.
“In total, I brought it with us, we’ve sent 385 pages of documents and tables to Congress,” he said. “So let me be very clear: Congress has all the information it needs and we’ve been responding to questions for months now. Congress has had plenty of time to act and time is of the essence.”
While both Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have referenced efforts to find offsets for the funding, the White House again maintained on Wednesday that offsets are not needed given the COVID-19 emergency.
“This is an emergency funding request and there’s not been a need for offsets for an emergency funding request,” Zients said.
Republicans have pointed to roughly $100 billion in unspent state and local aid from a previous relief bill, saying some of it could be repurposed for the current request.
The White House has said that while that money cannot be formally distributed under the law until May, many states and localities have already planned for receiving that money in their budgets.