Senate finalizes $10 billion deal to alleviate COVID-19

The Senate has struck a $10 billion deal COVID-19 Support and relief, Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitt Romney announced Monday.

The $10 billion will be allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services, of which $9.2 billion will go to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), according to Romney. Of that $9.2 billion, no less than $5 billion will go toward the discovery, development, manufacturing, production, purchase and delivery of therapeutics, and no less than $750 million will go to research and clinical trials for emerging coronavirus variants are flowing and supporting conservation and support for expanding vaccine manufacturing capacity, Romney said.

There will be an additional $10 billion in dollar-to-dollar offsets for “therapeutics and urgent COVID needs.” That $10 billion will be paid for by repurposing unspent COVID-related resources.

The figure is less than half of the more than $22 billion requested by the White House and does not include funding for global efforts to fight the virus. The Biden administration has insisted for months that funding is vital to continue providing therapeutics and vaccines should subsequent boosters become necessary.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement Monday urging Congress to approve the $10 billion funding, though it’s not as much as the government is asking for.

“Every dollar we have requested is important and we will continue to work with Congress to obtain any funds needed. But time is of the essence,” said Psaki. “We urge Congress to implement this $10 billion package without delay as it allows it to fund the most urgent needs as we currently risk not having some key tools such as treatments and testing from May and June.”

Senators continue to work on Capitol Hill
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) walks through the Senate subway during a vote on Capitol Hill February 16, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The deal will need the support of 60 members to pass the Senate.

Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, said he was “disappointed” Republicans couldn’t agree to $5 billion in global health funding.

“I think international funding is very important and I will work to put it in separate legislation,” Schumer said. “We are all more vulnerable to a major breakthrough variant if we don’t support the numerous other countries with lower vaccination rates and fewer resources than the United States.”

Schumer wasn’t the only Democrat disappointed with the deal. Coons, one of the top Democratic negotiators, issued a statement Monday saying he would vote in favor of the deal, but called it a “short-sighted agreement that doesn’t contain a penny to distribute vaccines around the world, to prevent the emergence of more deadly and transmissible variants.”

Romney, one of the top GOP negotiators, said last week there was an “agreement in principle” on the COVID package.

“We have agreed in principle on all expenses and all compensation,” he said. “It’s fully offset balanced. And, but we haven’t designed it yet.”

Lawmakers recently omitted COVID funding $1.5 trillion omnibus spending billso Congress pursued a standalone agreement.

Mr. Biden himself recently sounded the alarm about the need for additional COVID-19 funds. The president said Wednesday the government has had to cancel previously planned orders for monoclonal antibodies and cut shipments to states. Last week, the President said the US was on track to run out of monoclonal antibodies by the end of May.

“This is not partisan, this is medicine,” Biden said earlier Wednesday receives his second booster shot. “Congress must act now, please.”

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