The White House warned this week that more Covid-19 funding is urgently needed, but after Congress last week failed to approve an infusion of more than $15 billion for pandemic response efforts, the path to providing new money remains unclear.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci reportedly pleaded with Democrats Thursday to approve more funding — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reportedly apologized to the Biden health officials in front of her caucus for Democratic lawmakers’ making them have to ask.
An angry Pelosi reportedly castigated her members Thursday, saying: “You want to tell me about what you didn’t get? Don’t tell Noah about the flood.”
Pelosi later told reporters that the Biden administration should up its Covid request significantly. The White House had asked Congress for $22.5 billion. Lawmakers later negotiated a deal to provide $15.6 billion in response to Republican skepticism about the need for additional Covid funding and demands that any new aid be fully offset. But some House Democrats objected to a proposed compromise that would have repurposed some pandemic response money allocated to states. The Democratic revolt forced House leaders to pull $15.6 billion in pandemic funding from the $1.5 trillion omnibus package funding the federal government through September.
Pelosi on Thursday indicated she thought north of $40 billion would now be needed.
"I think they should be double what they asked for, because even when they were asking for like 20-some [billion dollars] it was only going to get us to June," she told reporters, according to The Hill.
Democrats had initially said they would hold a separate vote to provide new Covid funding without offsets, but that bill lacks the votes to pass, leaving Democrats looking for other ways to cover the cost of the additional aid.
“We’re just going to have to pass it, and we’ll pass it when we have the votes to pass it,” Pelosi told Politico. “In order to have bipartisan votes, we want it to be paid for, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Biden adminsitration, meanwhile, is reportedly looking to convince Republicans that the need for new money is real — even as some in the administration believe that GOP senators understand the need but are feigning uncertainty, according to Politico.
The administration sent a detailed accounting of remaining Covid funding to lawmakers Wednesday evening, CNN reports. An administration document sent to lawmakers and obtained by CNN said that 93% of the remaining money from the American Rescue Plan passed last year has already been obligated or distributed. The remaining 7% have "sound governmental reasons for not having been distributed yet," with some of the money specifically provided for future use and not legally available now, the administration argues.