Following President Joe Biden’s recent comments declaring the end of the pandemic, Senate Republicans expressed doubts about the need for COVID-19 funding.
As part of a short-term continuing resolution, the White House submitted an updated request for $22.4 billion to be spent on vaccines, testing, and therapeutics, among other things.
“This funding is critical to our ability to protect and build on the progress we’ve made,” Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote on the White House website on September 2.
However, following Biden’s remarks, this funding may now be jeopardized.
When asked if the pandemic was over, Biden said yes.
“We’re still having issues with COVID.” “We’re still working on it… but the pandemic is over,” Biden said on “60 Minutes” in a segment that aired Sunday.
Republican lawmakers seized on Biden’s remarks to question the need for additional COVID-19 funding.
“If it’s over, I don’t think they need any more money,” Texas Senator John Cornyn told CNN.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who helped negotiate a bipartisan $10 billion deal for COVID-19 funding that failed to pass the Senate this spring, told CNN that he did not see any way for pandemic-related funding to pass with GOP support.
Even some Democrats are concerned about Biden’s remarks.
“The variants are still available. We’re all hoping it’s over, but no one can predict with certainty. “I’m not,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday.
In any case, Durbin insisted that the White House funding requests are also about preparing for future outbreaks.
“In the past, the president has requested not only pandemic funds for COVID-19, but also preparation for what may come next.” “And I think that’s always obvious and fair,” he says. “I’d have to ask him if that’s his approach.”
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters earlier this month that “the pandemic is not over,” and that the administration was in “ongoing talks” with lawmakers about getting more funding, emphasizing the importance of money in the country’s fight against COVID-19.
“We are in a much better position now because we were able to respond effectively,” Jha said on September 6. “Congress understands that if we do not continue to fund the response, we can easily regress.”
For example, due to a lack of funding, the White House had to stop shipping free at-home test kits at the beginning of this month.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday that while the country is “moving in the right direction,” there is still room for improvement.
Fauci added that the outbreak’s intensity remains “unacceptably high,” referring to the 400 deaths per day that the United States is still experiencing, but that the overall picture is much better compared to earlier stages of the pandemic, when the United States averaged 3,000 deaths per day.
“We’re much better off now,” said Fauci. “However, if we are to quote, ‘live with the virus,’ we are not where we need to be because we know we will not be able to eradicate it.”
He also mentioned that only 67.7% of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated as of September 14, citing this figure as evidence of a “lack of uniform acceptance of the interventions that are available to us in this country.”
According to Politico, the White House appears to recognize that Biden’s comments may “complicate” the administration’s efforts to boost Americans this fall, following the approval of new boosters that target newer omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
According to an unnamed senior White House official, COVID-19 is no longer the administration’s top priority, but it is “still a real challenge.”
“And if things go wrong, it could go from being a problem to the biggest issue again,” the official explained.
According to the CDC, the United States had 54,831 cases and 360 deaths per day over the previous week as of Sept. 18.