Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed reporters Thursday that the Biden administration’s supplemental funding request for $22.5 billion in COVID-related funds is “absolutely necessary” because of “science.”
In a press conference, Pelosi said that part of the requested funds is going toward pills that can be used for therapeutic treatment for COVID-19, and that she hoped her counterparts across the political aisle would see the “wisdom” of the “science” of supporting the Biden administration’s request.
“The appropriators will be negotiating all of this,” Pelosi said to reporters who asked about the additional funding and the state of negotiations with Congressional Republicans. “The fact is, the $22 billion for COVID is absolutely necessary. In fact, we probably will need more as we need more therapies.”
“One of the pieces of this [appropriations bill] is to buy the pills that will be — you get a [symptom of COVID] and you take the pill,” she continued. “It’s no longer about something being a sub-freezing temperature only, having a shelf life, a certain amount of — this is science, this is going forward. So I would hope that they would see the wisdom of the science of what we need to do in terms of COVID.”
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“The last thing we need is more transmission,” Pelosi continued. “Transmission is where variants are created, and a new variant is a new challenge. So let’s do as much prevention or early intervention as we can.”
On Wednesday, the Biden administration’s Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking for supplemental funding to be included in a budget resolution before it ends on March 11. The letter requested $22.5 billion in temporary, supplemental funding to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the State Department.
The Biden administration claims that the money is “needed promptly to immediately secure supply of highly effective oral antiviral treatments; to purchase monoclonal antibodies and pre-exposure prophylaxis; to continue operating critical testing initiatives and funding testing, treatments, and vaccines for the uninsured; to initiate work on a next-generation vaccine that protects against future variants; to accelerate global vaccination efforts and provide urgent humanitarian relief abroad.”
The letter outlined $18.25 billion in extra funds for the HHS, which includes $12.2 billion to purchase oral antiviral therapeutics such as the pills produced by Merck and Pfizer, monoclonal antibody treatments, and prophylactics. The funds are also needed for the development of vaccines for future COVID-19 variants, including pediatric vaccines. Additionally, another $2 billion is going towards testing, and $1.5 billion for “Preparing for Future Variants.”
The HHS administration will receive $1.5 billion, and $1.05 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The remainder of the funds will go toward the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for global vaccine distribution, testing, and humanitarian aid.
President Joe Biden said during his State of the Union address on Tuesday that he would make the request to Congress, where he also announced a “Test to Treat” initiative, that will provide free therapeutics at no cost to those who test positive for COVID-19.
“Of course, continuing this costs money,” Biden said during the address, “So it will not surprise you I’ll be back to see you all. I’m going to soon send a request to Congress. The vast majority of Americans have used these tools and may want to again — we may need them again. So I expect Congress — and I hope you’ll pass that quickly.”