Senate negotiators, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Richard Burr (RN.C.), were seeking a compromise with Democrats, after lawmakers could not agree on a $15 billion package that would have included about $10 billion in domestic funding and $5 billion for the international response. The deal set to be announced Monday is expected to repurpose funding from previous stimulus packages, lawmakers said last week.
Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) had pushed the negotiators to funds the global response, and an earlier “agreement in principle” touted by Romney last Thursday would have included about $1 billion in global aid. But lawmakers were unable to agree on how to pay for that aid, said the people familiar with the deal. Democrats said they will seek to fund the administration’s international response through a separate legislative package later this year.
Some House members warned last week that they would not support a package that failed to include funding for the global response.
“I don’t understand why we as a country would make this mistake. My constituents do not want another variant to shut down their lives,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (DN.J.) said in an interview Thursday. “My constituents are already suffering higher prices because of covid-related economic disruptions, half a world away, in countries that are not adequately vaccinated.”
Lawmakers have been racing to reach a deal to pay for continuing the pandemic response before leaving for a two-week recess on April 9, with lawmakers warning that failing to secure an agreement now could stall the US response into May.
Public health experts said they were alarmed by the decision to drop funding for the global response.
“It demonstrates that one of the main take-home messages of this experience — that this is truly a global phenomenon — has not resonated or at least not resonated above politics,” said Jen Kates, director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation , calling the outcome “a victory for the virus.”
“The US has turned its back on the world,” added Zain Rizvi, research director for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization. “Penny-pinching in a pandemic will have devastating consequences for vaccinating the world, for reducing the risk of variants, for all of us.”