The White House Office of Management and Budget and other Biden administration officials are looking into how much funding they have available to redirect to respond to needs that may arise as a result of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, The Washington Post reports:
“Over at the White House, officials were working to understand their options but so far do not believe there is a need for an imminent request to Congress for more money. But that could change in coming days, the officials said, as much of the funding already approved for the White House to respond to the pandemic has been earmarked for specific purposes, such as free testing for uninsured Americans. White House officials are looking at how much money they would need in a worst-case scenario, in case the administration needs to immediately purchase mass quantities of vaccines designed to immunize specifically against the new variant.
“The cost of updated vaccines for all Americans could run as high as $7.5 billion, while buying 2 million additional monoclonal antibody treatments could cost $4 billion, according to one senior administration official, who provided rough estimates. Another $5 billion for 10 million antiviral pills could bring the total to $16 billion, the administration official said.”
The bottom line: Any White House push for a new round of emergency funding could lead to some political sparring and debate about what existing funding to shift toward omicron response, but G. William Hoagland, a budget expert with the Bipartisan Policy Center, told the Post that Congress would likely move quickly and avoid messy fights if it becomes clear that more money is needed. “I think it’s far too early to determine ‘what is needed for omicron,’ but given our history if this becomes an issue I doubt there’s any question that the resources will be there,” he said. “I don’t see a domestic political fight happening over omicron.”