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Democratic GOP Senate negotiators reach $10 billion COVID deal

WASHINGTON – Senate negotiators have agreed on a stripped-down $10 billion package to fight COVID-19 that includes treatments, vaccines and other measures, the lead Democrat and Republican negotiators said, but eventually halted all funding to help nations to help fight the pandemic abroad.

The compromise quickly withdrew support on Monday President Joe Biden, who initially pushed for a $22.5 billion package. In the event of a setback, he settled for much less, despite warnings from the government the government ran out of money to keep up with the continued – albeit reduced – spread of the disease in the United States

“Every dollar we have requested is important, and we will continue to work with Congress to obtain any funds needed,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “But time is pressing. We urge Congress to implement this $10 billion package immediately as it can begin to address urgent needs.”

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Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., his party’s lead negotiator, abandoned Biden’s request to include $5 billion to help countries — especially poorer ones — where the disease is still rampant is.

The inability of Biden and leading Democrats to protect additional spending they wanted came after the two parties became bogged down by GOP demands to pay for it by withdrawing unspent aid previous pandemic measures. It also reflected the diminished political clout the fight against COVID-19 has this election year, two years into a pandemic that began with bipartisan support for dumping trillions of dollars at it.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the lead GOP negotiator, hailed the deal as one that would address “urgent COVID needs.” He also touted the savings of the measure, meaning it “won’t cost the American people an extra dollar.”

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As of Monday, it was still uncertain whether objections from some Republicans could prevent the Senate from considering the bill this week, as Biden wants, before Congress begins a two-week spring break. It also wasn’t sure yet if there would be the minimum 10 GOP votes required for passage in the 50-50 chamber.

His fate was also not guaranteed in the House of Representatives, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and many liberals have criticized the rejection of global aid. But the party leaders there signaled a willingness to compromise.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, “That’s all the Senate can do right now, which I deeply regret, then I think we need to get that passed as soon as possible.” Anonymity to describe internal thinking said it’s best to take what’s attainable and fight for more later.

Schumer said the deal would provide “the tools we need” to help the country recover from the economic and public health damage that COVID-19 has inflicted. But he said while the $10 billion is “absolutely necessary, it falls far short of what is really necessary to remain safe in the long run.”

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He said members of both parties want to craft a second spending measure this spring that could include funds to help fight COVID-19 and overseas hunger, as well as more support for Ukraine as it continues to fight Russian invasion. The fate of such a measure is uncertain.

Romney also suggested an openness to consider future money. “Although this agreement does not include funding for the US global immunization program, I stand ready to find a fiscally justifiable solution to support the global effort in the coming weeks,” he said.

The agreement comes with BA.2, the new omicron variant expected to spark a fresh spike in US cases. Around 980,000 Americans and over 6 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19.

At least half of the $10 billion agreement would be used to research and manufacture therapeutics to treat the disease, according to data sheets from Schumer and Romney.

The money would also be used to buy vaccines and tests. At least $750 million would be used to research new COVID-19 variants and expand vaccine production, the descriptions said.

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Administration officials said the government was running out of money to fund COVID-19 testing and treatment for people without insurance. They have also said that funds for booster shots, variant-focused vaccines, free monoclonal antibody treatments and supplies for people with immune deficiencies are running out.

The deal is also a reduction from a $15 billion version that leaders of both parties negotiated last month. Pelosi abandoned that plan after Democratic lawmakers rejected proposed cuts to government pandemic aid to help fund the package.

Democrats from both chambers lamented the loss of global spending.

MP Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said there was “a major problem” in cutting international aid and “not spending money to ensure this virus is contained worldwide.”

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a leading foreign policy voice, said he would support the bill but called not supporting other countries’ efforts a “grave mistake”. He called it “fiscally foolish” not to send tens of millions of unused US vaccines overseas to the world’s 2.8 billion unvaccinated people.

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The measure will be paid for in full by withdrawing unspent funds from previous pandemic relief legislation that was enacted, negotiators said.

Romney’s fact sheet says that includes $2.3 billion from a fund to protect airline jobs; $1.9 billion from funds to support entertainment venues shut down by the pandemic; an additional $1.9 billion from a program that helps states lend to small businesses; and $1.6 billion from farm assistance programs.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.ksat.com/news/politics/2022/04/04/ap-sources-10b-senate-covid-deal-but-without-global-money/ Democratic GOP Senate negotiators reach $10 billion COVID deal

Andrew Schnitker

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