Disappointing decisions by Congress on regular and emergency funding
A global pandemic and its consequences demand a global response to match. This week Washington failed to deliver. If you’ve been following along on global COVID relief efforts, last week was a doozy and, to be honest, what’s next is still up in the air.
To recap: the administration finally sent over a formal funding request to Congress that supported military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine alongside $15 billion for COVID relief (split between $10 billion for domestic relief and $5 billion for global aid). In the wee hours of March 9th, the House of Representatives released bill text for both the omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2022 and the supplemental bill language. After months of grassroots pushing Congress and the Administration for at least $17 billion to support global vaccination efforts, this was the moment!
The initial deal reached with Senate republicans, many of them outspoken and wary about spending additional money, required any additional COVID funding on the domestic front to have to have “offsets.” The decision made between Leadership and the White House was to have the COVID relief funding paid for through claw backs to American Rescue Plan funding that was already obligated, but not spent, by states and localities.
When the bill text was released, these offsets raised alarms for local governments that wanted to keep those resources available for use. Several Progressive Caucus Members, alongside the National Governor’s Association, soon pushed back on the plan. This clearly upset a vote count that was needed to pass the bill in the House and Senate. And in the end – the COVID section of the supplemental was pulled out and never even went for a vote.
What we’ve gathered is that this upsetting turn does not mean there is less support for the global COVID relief. Maybe the opposite, actually. While the global funding in the COVID relief package was not under the same “pay for” deal, it had been tied directly to the needs on the domestic COVID front. The White House clearly wants to see these two pieces of funding legislation going together. Politically, this shows they are working to address both local and global challenges to COVID responses. The bipartisan support for global relief could even help the domestic support move ahead.
RESULTS released a statement last week, alongside many other advocacy organizations, to push back and demand that Congress pick up a global COVID relief supplemental immediately. “A global pandemic and its consequences demand a global response to match. This week Washington failed to deliver. The $5 billion global COVID emergency request from the White House was already far short of the need, and even that was stripped from the government funding package at the last minute. Without this emergency response capacity, the incremental increase to core global health and anti-poverty funding for Fiscal Year 2022 is even more inadequate. Millions of lives and futures hang in the balance. The House and Senate cannot wait any longer to pass desperately needed global COVID relief – starting immediately with that $5 billion.“
We are following this closely and the news continues to say getting a COVID relief package done is a priority of the administration and congressional leadership. But, they are still trying to figure out a path forward with the pay-fors, the vote counts, and making sure both global and domestic needs are met. Meanwhile there’s a good rundown of the political situation here from Politico.
Additionally – after over a year, the bill text for the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill was released – and while some increases were included, it was far shy from the original high watermarks set by House and Senate marks. Here’s how the global funding fared in the FY22 bill that is set to pass today and will be sent to the White House for approval (click here for larger image)