GOP senators push back on request for COVID funds after Biden says ‘pandemic is over’

Senate Republicans have expressed skepticism about whether COVID-19 funding is still needed following recent comments by President Joe Biden declaring the pandemic over.

Earlier this month, the White House presented an updated request for $22.4 billion to be spent on vaccines, tests and treatments, among other things, as part of an ongoing near-term resolution.

“This funding is vital to our ability to protect and build on the progress we have made,” Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a blog post for the White House website. September 2nd.

But that funding could now be at risk after Biden’s remarks.

When asked if the pandemic was over, Biden said yes.

“We still have a problem with COVID. We are still working on it a lot… but the pandemic is over,” Biden told “60 Minutes” in a segment that aired on Sunday.

Biden’s comments caught the attention of Republican lawmakers, who took the opportunity to question the need for additional COVID-19 funding.

“If it’s over, I wouldn’t suspect they needed any more money,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told CNN.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who helped broker a $10 billion bipartisan deal for COVID-19 money that failed to pass the Senate last spring, told CNN that ‘He saw no way forward for any kind of pandemic-related funding with GOP support.

Even some Democrats seem uncomfortable with Biden’s comments.

“The variations always exist. We all hope it’s over [but] no one is going to predict with certainty that this is the case. I am not,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told ABC News on Monday.

In any case, Durbin argued that the White House funding requests were also tied to preparing for future outbreaks.

“The president has asked in the past not just for pandemic funds for COVID-19, but to prepare for what might happen next. And I think it’s always obvious and right to do so,” he said. “Maybe that’s his approach, I should ask him.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters that “the pandemic is not over” and said the administration was in “discussions in courses” with lawmakers to secure more funding, highlighting the importance of money in the national fight against COVID-19.

“We are in a much better situation because we were able to react effectively,” Jha said on September 6. “Congress is aware that if we don’t continue to fund the response, we can easily backtrack.”

For example, the White House had to stop shipping free home testing kits earlier this month due to a lack of funding.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in a fireside chat with the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday that while the country is “moving in the right direction,” there are still room for progress.

Fauci added that the intensity of the epidemic remains “unacceptably high”, referring to the 400 deaths per day the United States is still experiencing, but said the overall situation had improved much compared to other stages of the pandemic when the United States was recording an average of 3,000 deaths a day.

“We are much better now,” Fauci said. “But we’re not where we need to be if we’re going to quote ‘living with the virus’ because we know we’re not going to eradicate it.”

He also noted the fact that only 67.7% of the US population had been fully immunized as of September 14, citing this measure as evidence of the “lack of uniform acceptance of the interventions available to us in this country.”

The White House appears to acknowledge that Biden’s comments could also further ‘complicate’ the administration’s efforts to boost Americans this fall, according to Politico, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved new boosters, which target new omicron BA.4 and BA subvariants. .5.

An unnamed senior White House official told Politico that while COVID-19 is no longer the top priority on the administration’s agenda, it’s “still a real challenge.”

“And if things go wrong, it could become a problem again and become the biggest problem again,” the official said.

The United States has averaged 54,831 cases and 360 deaths per day over the past week to September 18, according to the CDC.


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