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Biden Aides Tell Congress to Save Room in Budget For COVID Funding

Biden Aides Tell Congress to Save Room in Budget For COVID Funding

Two weeks after a new round of COVID-19 funding was pulled out of a $1.5 trillion government-wide measure due to specific cuts rejected by some Democrats, senior Biden administration officials said on Monday that Congress should still provide the $22.5 billion President Joe Biden wants for continuing the battle against COVID-19 without cutting other programs to pay for it.

The White House has said the government is running out of funds for vaccines, testing, and treatments, even as Omicron variant BA.2, which is fueling a virus resurgence in Europe and Asia, is appearing increasingly in the U.S. Even though President Biden signed the overall bill into law, the deletion of the COVID-19 funds was a major setback for Biden and Democrats.

[Photo by Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images]
President Biden’s pandemic spending request had been pared down to $15.6 billion as part of the compromise House bill. It would have been partly paid for by cutting billions in COVID-19 aid that last year’s bill had provided to 30 state governments but had not yet been sent to them. Many Democrats refused to vote for the overall package until the cuts in state aid were removed, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ultimately agreed to do.

Top Republicans had demanded the savings in exchange for supporting the legislation, and Pelosi dropped all the COVID-19 spending after substitute cuts were not found. Republicans kept insisting that the additional federal efforts to combat the pandemic must be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere. The Biden aides say that the GOP should specify what it wants to cut, rather than support more COVID relief.

Republicans say savings to pay for the new expenditures should be found from the trillions that Congress has already provided since the pandemic began two years ago. That includes a $1.9 trillion measure Democrats pushed through Congress over unanimous GOP opposition a year ago.

GOP leaders say the administration has not provided figures they’ve sought on how much money remains unspent. The administration officials in Monday’s call said they’ve repeatedly provided plentiful data on the subject, and said Republicans have agreed to not require savings to pay for past emergencies. Only around $300 billion of last year’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief measure remains unspent and not legally committed to a specific program or recipient, Biden administration officials said.

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