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Senate relief package earmarks $10B for global coronavirus response
The Senate is considering $10 billion in international assistance for the State Department and global response to the coronavirus pandemic, part of the $1.9 trillion relief package that is up for a vote in the upper chamber.
The bulk of the money is directed toward aiding the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious and communicable diseases, with hundreds of millions of dollars more helping fund the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other global assistance funds through September 2022.
This includes providing $8.675 billion for the global response to the pandemic.
Of this sum, $3.75 billion is being directed for coronavirus response and relief and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Also, $3.09 billion is directed for international disaster relief, including reconstruction, health services and emergency food security needs.
Also included is $930 million addressing economic instability as a result of the virus and $905 million for USAID to "prevent, prepare and respond to coronavirus" and multilateral vaccine development partnerships.
The Biden administration has earlier committed $4 billion to COVAX, the United Nations global vaccine distribution fund. The U.S. is also in talks with partner nations to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries in an effort to push back against China's efforts to exert influence with its vaccine.
Other big ticket items in the legislation include $500 million for humanitarian response, for refugee assistance programs through the United Nations; and $580 million for multilateral assistance, in particular to the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan COVID-19.
Further, the legislation provides $204 million for the State Department for "necessary expenses" and $41 million for USAID to maintain operations and for expenses responding to COVID-19 domestically or internationally.
President Biden has identified engaging the U.S. on the global stage in response to the pandemic as a chief priority, part of efforts to engage allies and confront adversaries as part of his administration's national security and foreign policy strategy and reflected in the $1.9 trillion relief package.
Senate Democrats succeeded in bringing the legislation to the Senate floor on Thursday but a final vote on the bill faces an hours-long delay amid pushback from Republican lawmakers.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is forcing Senate floor staff to read the entire 678-page bill in a process that is estimated to take up to 10 hours.
Following the reading of the bill, the Senate then has a 20-hour debate period. After that, senators will have an opportunity to propose votes on any amendment, further drawing out the legislation's final tally.