‘Global aid’ package, $5 billion, puts Covid relief bill in jeopardy

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Senate Democrats and Republicans are reportedly close to inking a COVID relief bill worth $10 billion, or $3.6 billion less than they approved for Ukraine earlier this month.

The only obstacle currently impeding their progress is a demand by some Democrats for an additional $5 billion in so-called “global aid” to be included in the package.

These Democrats “are deeply unhappy with the [current $10 billion] compromise being negotiated with Republicans, warning that leaving out global aid will have consequences,” Politico reported Thursday.

“That spells possible trouble for the package’s fate in the House. And as they left for the weekend, Senate Democrats said the fight for international vaccine money is not over.”

In a statement to Politico, Democrat Sen. Chris Coons admitted, “In general, the two parties see where we are on Covid and spending and offsets, very differently.”

Except for Sen. Mitt Romney, who apparently sees eye-to-eye with Democrats, as usual: “I appreciate that Sen. Romney came out and said he wants some way to increase the international [funding]. Because to have zero international would be a huge mistake in the middle of a global humanitarian crisis,” Coons explained.

Yet even the $10 billion is more than some Americans believe ought to be spent given that the pandemic has drastically receded, with cases and hospitalizations now being at low rates not seen since the first few weeks of the pandemic two years ago:

Keep in mind that the $10 billion deal currently on the table is far less than what Democrats had originally sought.

“GOP senators floated the $10 billion aid package on Wednesday — scaling back a previously negotiated $15.6 billion deal that collapsed in the House earlier this month,” according to Politico.

“It’s also far less than the White House’s initial request of nearly $22.5 billion, which included asks for tests, therapeutics and vaccines — including shots for children under 5 years old, which could be approved in the coming months,” the outlet added.

Notice the money for additional vaccines. This essentially means additional money designed to be funneled into the hands of pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer.

In fact, “[h]alf of the roughly $10 billion total would be spent on therapeutic medicines [including vaccines] that treat Covid,” Politico notes.

For the COVID bill to pass the Senate, at least 10 Republicans must jump ship and vote with Democrats. According to Sen. Roy Blunt, this apparently won’t be an issue.

“I believe you’ll get more than 10 Republicans, maybe significantly more,” he told The Hill.

However, the bill may not fare as well in the House.

“The full package could clear the chamber in the coming days and head to the House, where many Democrats aren’t satisfied with the plan to significantly downsize the size of the package,” according to Politico.

“Multiple House Democrats are already threatening to withhold their support for a pandemic bill that does not include the $5 billion in global vaccination funds. Even if they cannot negotiate a bigger price tag, several lawmakers said they will demand that at least some of the funding goes toward international health efforts,” the report continued.

“I just cannot support another round of Covid funding that just completely eviscerates our ability to be, as Joe Biden put it, the arsenal of vaccines for the world. We have to get it right,” one House Democrat, Rep. Tom Malinowski, told Politico.

Politico further notes that the current “Senate negotiations are necessary after House Democrats torpedoed an earlier version of the package, as individual members fought efforts to fund the effort with leftover Covid money allocated to their states.”

This need to fund the bill with state-allocated money became necessary only because of Congress’ $13.6 billion Ukraine spending bill. That money, which had already been offset, was originally set aside for funding COVID relief efforts here, not war efforts in Ukraine.

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