The Biden administration is throwing his support behind a Senate deal on a coronavirus aid package that comes up significantly short of their requests.
The White House wanted $22.5 billion to fund COVID-19 programs that included vaccines, therapeutics and tests. The final agreement from senators, however, offered less than half of that request, likely setting up another funding fight in the near future.
“Every dollar we requested is essential and we will continue to work with Congress to get all of the funding we need. But time is of the essence,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We urge Congress to move promptly on this $10 billion package because it can begin to fund the most immediate needs, as we currently run the risk of not having some critical tools like treatments and tests starting in May and June.”
Notably, the Senate deal did not include $5 billion the White House requested for global vaccine efforts.
Cartoons on the Coronavirus
“We must continue our work to vaccinate the world both because it is the right thing to do and also because … it is critical to reducing the risk of new variants, which in turn is critical to the safety of the American people,” Psaki said .
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated he would try to get that funding secured in future legislation, saying that the current proposal is “well short of what is truly needed to keep us safe from the COVID-19 virus over the long-term.”
“It is my intention for the Senate to consider a bipartisan international appropriations package that could include additional aid for Ukraine as well as funding to address COVID-19 and food insecurity globally,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.
But even the current agreement still faces hurdles. Lawmakers want to try to pass the bill by Friday before they leave for a two-week recess. Such a fast timeline will be a challenge, considering Senate Democrats also want a confirmation vote for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court this week.
Another possible squabble could come from an amendment package. The tight time frame to pass the bill could give Republicans leverage to push for an amendment vote, and GOP senators are reportedly considering targeting the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42, a controversial Trump-era order that allowed border agents to rapidly expel immigrants at the border during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such a vote would put Democrats in a tough spot, considering several have criticized the Biden administration’s decision as well. Should an amendment vote happen, Republicans would need just one Democrat to support the measure for it to be added into the coronavirus aid bill.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has been outspoken against the decision, saying the administration is “nowhere near prepared” for the expected influx of immigrants at the border.