Lawmakers Object To Biden’s Request For More ‘COVID-19 Funding’

Some lawmakers are pushing back on a prospective request from the Biden Administration for another $30 billion to COVID-19. The ambiguous informal request was generally described as a measure to fund additional vaccines, tests, and treatments.

Some lawmakers are objecting, saying that funds for the same proposals have already been allocated by Congress or spent by the Administration. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the request for more funding by saying the White House wants to “ensure that we are well prepared” to keep in front of the omicron variant and as-yet-unknown viral strains.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said that another $30 billion in spending without sufficient oversight or a “proper plan” to conclude the public health emergency is not how Americans are going to “get their freedom back.” She said that it is high time to end the “pandemic of bureaucracy” and get the government out of Americans’ way so they can return to everyday life.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that he was doubtful about providing the Administration with even more COVID funding before the looming March 11 deadline for funding the federal government. He pointed out that recently, every advance in funding talks has required “several months of negotiation.”

Ranking member of the Appropriations Committee Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said that he thinks there are likely unspent funds that have already been allocated and could be repurposed.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) is a Senate Republican the Administration knows it can often rely upon. However, he said the additional spending could “exacerbate high inflation” and said Congress must demand “full accountability” of the funds already allocated.

The Biden Administration sent lawmakers a chart last week that purports to show no unallocated funds available in any of the categories it is asking for funding.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health Committee, said that she had been told the Administration needs “more resources pretty urgently” to detect new variants. She said that she hoped everyone could agree on how important it is for the federal government to be ready for the “next phase” of the pandemic.

This year’s midterm election cycle may finally serve as some demonstration to federal lawmakers that Americans are not willing to accept the idea of a neverending coronavirus crisis.