President Biden on Wednesday again called on Congress to approve billions of dollars in additional Covid-19 funding, warning that lawmakers’ inaction could reverse progress made against the pandemic.
Biden noted that there are sufficient supplies at the moment for a limited round of additional booster shots, which the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved this week for anyone 50 and older. But he warned that the country could face shortages before long.
“If Congress fails to act, we won’t have the supply we need this fall to ensure that shots are available, free, easily accessible for all Americans,” Biden said before getting his own second booster shot. “Even worse, if we need a different vaccine for the future to combat a new variant, we’re not going to have enough money to purchase it. We cannot allow that to happen. Congress, we need to secure additional supply now. Now. We can’t wait until we find ourselves in the midst of another surge to act. It’ll be too late.”
A program to pay for tests and treatments for the uninsured is already out of funding and the government has had to cancel planned orders of monoclonal antibodies and cut the supply of those treatments being sent to states. It has also scaled back plans to buy preventive therapies for the immunocompromised. Biden and other officials have warned that the U.S. could face shortages of tests and vaccines within months.
A new Covid website: Biden also announced a new federal website, Covid.gov, that he said will serve as “a one-stop shop where anyone in America can find what they need to navigate the virus: free vaccines and boosters, free at-home tests, high-quality masks.” The site, which went live Wednesday morning, also provides information about community spread by county.
What’s next: Key lawmakers have expressed optimism that they can reach a deal to provide more than $15 billion in new Covid funding and potentially do it before Congress leaves for a recess at the end of next week.
But while Biden on Wednesday said his request for more funding “isn’t partisan; it’s medicine,” partisan differences remain an obstacle. Some Republicans have questioned whether the additional money is as critical as the White House says it is, and they have demanded that any further Covid spending come from reprogramming existing funds. That leaves it unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who are leading negotiations, can get the necessary 10 GOP senators to sign on to a deal.
Romney reported that Democrats offered a new list of offsets Wednesday. “Their list and our list are different. So we’re going to work through the differences and see if we can reach a meeting of the minds,” Romney said. “We may or may not.”
Don’t look now, but … In related news, Bloomberg reported Wednesday that “New York City Covid-19 cases are rising again, particularly among people 25 to 34 years old ... The surge appears to be concentrated in Manhattan, the most vaccinated borough.”
The bottom line: “Here’s a scary thought,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine write. “America’s ability to face the pandemic’s next phase may depend on a handful of senators.”