Deadlock could delay COVID funding until fall or longer

The Biden administration says the US faces “great unnecessary loss of life” unless Congress provides additional billions of dollars to prepare for the next wave of the pandemic. For now finding that money is in limbothe latest victim of an election year deadlock that stalled or killed many democratic priorities.

President Joe Biden’s call for funds for vaccines, testing and treatment has been met with resistance from Republicans who have combined the fight with unreliable immigration policies. Congress is in recess and the next steps are unclear despite warnings from White House COVID-19 Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha of ill effects from “every day we wait.”

Administration officials say they are running out of money to stock up or even start ordering the latest vaccines, tests and treatments. Also missing reimbursement funds for physicians treating uninsured patients and help poor countries cope with the pandemic.

House and Senate Democrats are arguing over how to break the impasse and even which house should vote first. It’s an open question whether they’ll ever get the GOP votes they’ll need to get legislation through the Senate 50-50, and the outlook in the narrowly divided House is also unclear.

“There is still an urgent need to pass the COVID relief package,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y, said last week. “Very, very necessary.”

Optimists hope that this measure can take effect after the return of Congress next week. Pessimists say that without a quick solution, Democrats may not have the leverage to push money through before the fall. That’s when they could include it in a bill likely to be needed to fund the government – a bill that would prevent the shutdown of the federal government, a campaign distraction Republicans will desperately avoid.

A bunch of rejected Democratic initiatives have grown this year, falling victim to GOP opposition and centrist uprisings like Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va. The casualties include bills on voting rights, health care, the environment, taxes, gun restrictions, abortion rights, police tactics, and an investigation into the 2021 Capitol storming by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

While lawmakers have approved massive federal agency funding packages through September and aid to Ukraine to counter a Russian invasion, other priorities are dead or drifting, even as the number of Democrats in Congress is likely to be dwindling. The Republicans are likely to gain control of the House of Representatives in the November election and may also take over the Senate, and the Democrats’ frustration is clear.

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“Until it budges,” Senator Maisie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said of Biden’s latest $22.5 billion request for COVID-19, which he originally sent to Congress three months ago. “But then they don’t have any reasonable gun laws or the right to vote.”

“Senate 50-50 sucks,” she said.

Officials say COVID money needed fast. Their warnings were linked to more than 1 million U.S. deaths from the disease and a new variant that hospitalizes more than 100,000 Americans daily and kills more than 300 people. Both numbers are on the rise.

Officials say there’s not enough fresh funds The US is lagging behind other countries already lining up for supplies needed for the fall and winter. This has prompted Jah to consider the possibility that Congress will provide no new money at all, threatening a painful choice of what to do if there are not enough vaccines or therapeutics for everyone who needs them.

“That would be terrible,” Jah told reporters recently. “I think if that happened, we would see a lot of unnecessary loss of life.”

Congress has earmarked $370 billion for supplies, research, and other public health initiatives to fight the pandemic, according to administration estimates obtained by the Associated Press. Documents show that, as of April 5, about $14 billion of that has not been spent or allocated to contracts, serious money, but an amount the administration says is below ultimate need.

Most Republicans are skeptical about additional funding due to the pandemic. “I find it hard to believe that there is not enough money and not enough flexibility to use it,” said Senator Kevin Kramer, RN.D.

Paradoxically, but unsurprisingly to the ever-baffling Senate, the one unsolvable mystery that baffles Democrats is immigration.

Senate Republicans are demanding a vote to amend pandemic legislation with language that preserves Trump-era restrictions that, citing COVID-19, have made it easier to ban migrants from entering the US.

A federal judge forbade Biden to lift those restrictions. Liberals want Congress to lift restrictions, but moderate Democrats in both houses, facing tough re-elections, want to vote to keep it.

The result: sharp divisions between the two ideological factions of the Democrats and tough questions for party leaders on how to resolve them and push through a package of measures to combat the pandemic.

Their task is exacerbated by disputes between House and Senate Democrats over why the battle against COVID-19 remains unresolved.

Senate Democrats note that a $15.6 billion bipartisan pandemic compromise deal was on the verge of passing the House of Representatives in March until progressive House Democrats rebelled against spending cuts to pay for it. throw money away. “We’re waiting for the House to send us something,” Schumer said last week.

House Democrats say that even if they do, the biggest hurdle will still be the Senate, where it will take 10 GOP votes to reach that House’s usual threshold of 60 votes to pass. They note that the April deal between Schumer and Senator Mitt Romney, D-Utah, for $10 billion in COVID-19 money collapsed after the Republicans demanded an immigration vote.

“We want to end COVID-19, but the only obstacle right now is the US Senate,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, MD, told reporters recently.

This left the Republicans waiting for the Democrats’ next move.

“I believe at this point more than half of our members will vote against it no matter what. So the question is what will you do to make it acceptable for 10 or 12 senators,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. member of the leadership of the Republican Party. “And I don’t know.

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