Saturday, March 25

Senators reach $10 billion COVID-19 deal, leave out global aid

Senators in both parties have reached a deal to provide $10 billion for the fight against COVID-19, but the agreement leaves out funding for the global virus response, according to Senate aides.

The agreement could clear the path for Congress to finally pass some new funding for the virus response, which the White House has been warning for weeks is urgently needed to allow for purchases of more vaccines, treatments and tests. 

However, the $10 billion deal is less than half of the $22.5 billion the White House initially requested. Even that full amount was only for short-term needs, and the White House said it would need to come back for more money later. That means another COVID-19 funding fight could soon come down the pike as well. 

The shrinking size of the COVID-19 funding is due to a fight over how to pay for the measures. Republican senators have insisted that any new COVID-19 funding be paid for and have resisted any plan for new funding that was not offset. 

The Washington Post first reported the agreement on Monday. 

Lawmakers had originally reached a $15.6 billion deal last month that was paid for, but a group of House Democrats objected to using a portion of state funds from a previous relief bill as an offset, leading to a stalemate that now appears to be broken. 

Senators said last week the deal was expected to be paid for with unspent funds from previous relief packages, but with an effort to take from pots that steer clear of the state aid cutbacks that drew House Democratic objections.

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The removal of $5 billion in funding for the global COVID-19 response is a major blow to efforts to vaccinate the world, which experts say is also key to preventing dangerous new variants from forming that also threaten the United States. Advocates and some Democratic lawmakers had pushed for significantly more than that amount, and are now set to end up with nothing amid the dispute over offsets. 

“Failing to fund the global fight against COVID-19 is a choice to extend the pandemic, to accept preventable suffering and insecurity for all, and to live with the knowledge that, deep in the time of the world’s greatest need, the United States gave up,” tweeted Peter Maybarduk, an advocate at the progressive group Public Citizen. 

The Hill reported last week that the global funds were on track to be dropped, though there were last-ditch efforts to add at least some back. 

“I don’t think the Dems would agree to offsets that would allow them to cover that. So it’s dropped down to the size that they were willing to pay for,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told The Hill last week.   

Jordain Carney contributed. 

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