Biden amps up pressure on Congress to pass stalled COVID aid
President Biden on Wednesday called on lawmakers to authorize billions of dollars in pandemic relief funding that has stalled in Congress.
During a speech at the White House, Biden upped the pressure on lawmakers, warning that without continued funding, the U.S. is at risk of backsliding just as the country is turning the corner on COVID-19.
“Just as we reached the critical turning point in this fight, Congress has to provide the funding America needs to continue to fight COVID-19,” Biden said. “This isn’t partisan. It’s medicine.”
A $1.5 trillion government funding bill signed into law earlier this month was going to include $15.6 billion in COVID-19 spending, but it was stripped out after a group of House Democrats objected to one of the offsets, namely using a portion of state aid from a previous relief bill.
Senate Republicans are not interested in setting aside any new funding, and progress has been stalled for weeks. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said they are making progress on a compromise deal to find acceptable offsets but have not made any timing promises.
The administration has been sounding the alarm that the funding is urgently needed and calling on Congress to act. Without new funds, the administration is cutting back on the distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments to states, while a program to pay for tests and treatments for the uninsured is out of money.
Officials also say there is not enough money to purchase additional booster shots for all Americans if a fourth vaccine dose is needed.
Still, the administration’s pitch that more money is needed stands in contrast to messaging that Americans should move on with their lives and embrace a “new normal.”
“We’re now in a new moment in this pandemic. It does not mean that COVID-19 is over, it means COVID-19 no longer controls our lives,” Biden said.
In addition to pressing Congress for funding, Biden also unveiled a new “one-stop shop” website to help Americans access COVID-19 vaccines, tests, treatments and masks.
Biden also received his second coronavirus booster shot after health officials authorized it on Tuesday.
His remarks came as new infections and hospitalizations have dropped from their highs in January but also as most precautions have been relaxed.
The nation’s vaccination and booster rates have also dropped to record lows, just as experts and officials are bracing for the possibility of another wave of infections from the BA.2 subvariant of omicron.