A White House request for emergency funding to support coronavirus and monkeypox response efforts is missing from the recent must-pass spending bill rolled out by Senate Democrats after staunch GOP opposition.
The White House pushed for billions in funding to bolster those efforts as part of a short-term funding bill Congress is aiming to pass this week to avert a government shutdown.
But the request has drawn considerable pushback from Senate Republicans in recent weeks, who have pushed for the funding to be offset. Republicans also expressed more opposition to the funding in light of Biden’s recent comments declaring the COVID-19 pandemic “over.”
“If that’s true, I’m glad. And so why does he want tens of billions of dollars for COVID?” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters last week, speculating the comments “certainly makes it harder” for more coronavirus funding to be secured.
Earlier this month, the White House asked Congress for more than $22 billion in funding to address what it described as “critical” needs to fund COVID-19 response efforts, including dollars to procure more vaccines, offer free community testing, bolster research, and more.
The White House asked for $4.5 billion in funding to fight monkeypox, including $1.6 billion to strengthen vaccine manufacturing and hundreds of millions to help support state and local efforts, as well provide testing.
But many Republicans also expressed resistance to that emergency request, instead insisting the Biden administration turn to the resources previously allocated.
“In my view, adding additional funding in that area would make it a very heavy lift for myself and other Republicans,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said earlier this month. “There’s ample revenue that’s been provided to the administration to be able to deal with medical emergencies of this nature.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) also said earlier this month that Republicans had “zero” interest in fulfilling the request.
“There’s plenty of money still swirling around from previous COVID bills … I mean, four and a half billion for monkeypox. That’s a lot of money. And not sure how they’re gonna spend it all,” he added amid GOP scrutiny over how past COVID-19 funds have been dispersed.
In comments to The Hill earlier this month, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who serves on the of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said the funding is crucial to the nation’s response efforts, but acknowledged some Republicans have “legitimate questions” about funding.
“It’s a very serious issue. We should put funding into it,” Kaine said. “But to the extent that there are, you know, legitimate questions about, ‘Just tell us how we’ve used the aid that’s already out there?’ ‘Is there COVID aid that could be redeployed to this?’ ”
“And maybe the answer to those questions is ‘no,’ but let’s give everybody the info and then have that dialogue,” he said. “And I think some of my Republican colleagues who would be inclined to support, they have some, I think, fairly straightforward questions, that, if we can get them answers, I think they will support.”