A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a $10 billion COVID-19 supplemental funding proposal on April 4, but concerns related to establishing an amendment process prevented a vote on the measure before members departed for the two-weeklong congressional recess.
The bill would provide $10 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF), including:
- Up to $9.25 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, of which at least $5 billion must be used to research, develop, manufacture, produce, purchase, and administer therapeutics.
- $750 million for research and clinical trials into novel variants and vaccine manufacturing.
The legislation would limit any transfer of funds only between the PHSSEF and the National Institutes of Health and would require a series of detailed reports from the HHS about how the funding is used.
Republican negotiator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) issued a press statement to announce the deal, which he helped forge with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). At the urging of Republican negotiators, the bill offsets the new pandemic spending by repurposing unused funds previously provided by Congress.
Congress previously sought to pass additional COVID-19 relief funds as part of the fiscal year 2022 omnibus in March and again separately, when House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced a $15.6 billion stand-alone bill (H.R. 7007) [refer to Washington Highlights, March 16]. Those attempts both also included funds to support global vaccine distribution, which were stripped from the agreement announced April 4.
Both DeLauro and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued statements expressing disappointment in the bipartisan deal’s lack of funds to support global vaccination efforts. “In the coming weeks, I and others will be advocating for additional emergency funding to support our efforts abroad to end this pandemic,” said Leahy. “In the meantime, I strongly support this bipartisan agreement and urge its passage as soon as possible.”
The Senate is expected to take up consideration of this measure upon its return on April 25.