US

Biden assists Congress: Fund COVID aid, don’t cut the budget

Congress should provide the $22.5 billion President Joe Biden wants to continue the battle against COVID-19 without cutting other programs to pay for it, senior administration officials said Monday.

And if Republicans continue to insist that additional federal efforts to fight the pandemic must be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere, the GOP should make clear what it wants to cut, officials said.

The remarks came nearly two weeks after a new round of COVID-19 funding was pulled from a $1.5 trillion government measure after grassroots Democrats rejected cuts that party leaders had negotiated to pay it. Although Biden signed the overarching bill, the removal of COVID-19 funds was a major setback for Biden and Democrats.

“Our concern right now is that we’re going to run out of money to provide the kinds of free vaccines, boosters, immunocompromised treatments and the like that will help continue to fight the pandemic,” said Jen, press secretary for the White House. PSAKI said on Monday.

The White House has said the government is running out of money for vaccines, tests and treatments, even as the BA.2 variant of Omicron, which is fueling a resurgence of the virus in Europe and Asia, increasingly emerges. more in the United States.

Senior administration officials said the government had purchased the doses it would need to vaccinate children up to age 5. But they said they only had enough shots to give a fourth vaccine – what drugmakers recommend – to people with weakened immune systems.

Officials spoke only on condition of anonymity as a condition for reporters to participate in the telephone briefing.

Republicans say savings to pay for new spending would have to be found from the trillions Congress has already provided since the pandemic began two years ago.

GOP leaders say the administration did not provide the numbers they sought on how much money was unspent. During Monday’s call, administration officials said they repeatedly provided extensive data on the subject.

Only about $300 billion of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief measure that Democrats pushed through Congress a year ago — against unanimous GOP opposition — remains unspent and unlegally committed. in a specific program or recipient, administration officials said.

But about $240 billion was pledged to specific recipients like states and cities, which built the amounts into their budgets, administration officials said. The administration held back some of the remainder for emergencies, they said.

Biden’s pandemic spending request had been reduced to $15.6 billion as part of the House compromise bill. This would have been partly paid for by cutting billions in COVID-19 aid that last year’s bill provided to 30 state governments but had not yet been sent to them.

Many Democrats refused to vote for the overall package until state aid cuts were removed, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., finally agreed to do. Top Republicans had demanded savings in exchange for supporting the legislation, and Pelosi dropped all COVID-19-related spending after replacement cuts were not found.

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