The House Passes $8.3 Billion Emergency Coronavirus Bill
After a chaotic week of partisan feuding over vaccine affordability, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a massive emergency funding package to combat the rapidly spreading coronavirus, Politico reports.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the overall total aimed at helping states and the federal government fight the coronavirus is now just north of $8 billion.
The package is aimed at helping states and the federal government muster more power to fight the outbreak, which is nearing a pandemic and has claimed 11 lives in the U.S. The Senate is expected to pass the bill as early as Thursday and send it to President Donald Trump’s desk.
The deal comes after several days of partisan bickering over vaccine affordability, with Republicans arguing that the federal government shouldn’t foot the bill for the vaccine. Democrats argued that “Americans should be able to receive the vaccine regardless of their ability to pay.”
During the hearings, Democrats had pressed for significant funding to purchase large amounts of coronavirus diagnostics, treatments and vaccines when they become available, which would then be made available to the public free of cost, Politico reports.
Republicans tried to eliminate the “fair and reasonable price” federal procurement standard for the vaccines and treatments that will be developed and purchased with the emergency funds. “Fair and reasonable price” is a basic standard to prevent price gouging in federal contracts.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knocked Democrats for their “last-minute demand” on vaccine affordability.
“We already have long-standing tried and true procedures so the government can buy and distribute new medicines in scenarios like this to ensure accessibility. These mechanisms are already in place. There’s no need and this is no time to begin experimenting with ideological proposals that could jeopardize research, development and innovation,” McConnell said, according to Politico.