President Joe Biden recently declared the COVID-19 pandemic is “over.”
But that has not stopped his administration from asking Congress to approve more than $20 billion in new pandemic-related funding.
What are the details?
The White House is asking Congress to approve $22.4 billion “to meet immediate short-term domestic needs” that are allegedly connected to the pandemic.
That money will go toward testing, accelerating “research and development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics,” helping the U.S. prepare for future COVID-19 variants, and to support the global pandemic response. It’s not clear how, with the exception of testing, any of those stated needs are, in the words of the White House, “immediate short-term domestic” priorities.
“[O]ur COVID-19 response efforts continue to require additional funding,” the White House said in a release.
“In March, we requested that Congress provide supplemental COVID-19 funding and repeatedly warned that without congressional action, we would be forced to make difficult trade-offs and pull existing funding from critical efforts to meet the most pressing needs,” the release continued. “That is precisely what has happened.”
The request comes as lawmakers in Washington negotiate a stopgap spending bill that would prevent a partial government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
As the Washington Post highlighted, Republicans are understandably seizing on the apparent double standard and pointing out that Biden’s rhetoric contradicts his policies.
For example, the legal justification for canceling $10,000 of student loan debt per borrower is the alleged national emergency stemming from the pandemic. Meanwhile, Biden officials have argued that migrants should no longer be expelled from the U.S. under Title 42 because the pandemic is a relic of the past.
What does the WH say?
Administration officials were called in for clean-up duty this week after Biden’s “60 Minutes” interview.
An official, for instance, told CNN the official policy of the U.S. government has not changed, and that a declaration of national emergency over the pandemic will be extended in October.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre muddied the waters further with confusing remarks when asked about Biden’s declaration.
“Just to step back for a second,” she said. “When he made those comments, he was walking through the Detroit car show, the halls of the Detroit car show, and he was looking around. We have to remember the last time that they had held that event was 3 years ago.
“We are in a different time. He’s been very consistent about that,” she went on to say, attributing Biden’s work as president for the improving pandemic.
— Tom Elliott (@Tom Elliott)