Partisan bickering is holding up more COVID aid money, which means America’s supply of tests and vaccines is about to get pretty sparse.
While we’ve apparently decided that COVID is over, the virus did not agree to play along. Now, even with hints of a new Omicron subvariant on the rise, Congress is refusing to provide the funding necessary to continue testing and vaccinating people.
The situation is a perfect encapsulation of the completely ineffectual Congress, so let’s break it down real quick: Last week, the House of Representatives pulled a proposal for more coronavirus-related funding from a $1.5 trillion federal spending bill. While pandemic aid was just a small part of the bill, it became contentious, so Democrats in the House decided to just pull it out and push the bill forward, with a goal of passing standalone funding for coronavirus relief later. Surely that wouldn’t backfire.
Oh, would you look at that! It backfired immediately. What was initially discussed as $30 billion in new spending to buy more COVID tests, cover costs for Americans to get free testing, and buy more vaccine doses has already been cut in half in an attempt to appease Republicans.
The current funding proposal sits at $15.6 billion, which has pissed off Democrats who want more spending. And by the way, we need that additional funding: Politico reports the next round of vaccines and antiviral pills from Pfizer will cost $10 billion alone, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned that our current supply will run out as soon as July.
Of course, even this greatly reduced price tag for COVID relief is considered too much by Republicans in the Senate, who are pretty much done even pretending to care about the virus that has killed nearly 1 million Americans already. According to The Washington Post, Republicans won’t go along with any version of coronavirus-related spending unless it is paid for in full upfront — and even that might not be enough to appease them.
So instead of ensuring the country has everything it needs to fight the virus as cases quietly start to tick back up, Congress has turned the funding into a fight where Democrats are mad at the smaller spending bill which ignores the reality of the situation and Republicans are mad that we’re not ignoring reality even harder. Unless a deal is reached, the government won’t pay for the tools needed to fight the virus — and we’ll all be paying for that inaction.