Congressional Republicans are apparently refusing to rise above their partisan animosity even for long enough to secure appropriate emergency funding to combat the Coronavirus. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has explained and a new report from POLITICO outlines, Senate Republicans are withholding their support for a Coronavirus response funding package over a provision demanding a “fair and reasonable price” for tests, treatments, and vaccines that are developed to combat the disease and which are purchased with the funds in the emergency funding bill.
Without that provision, “drugmakers could charge the government above-market rates, meaning fewer Americans will have access” to vaccines and treatment, a senior Democratic aide noted to POLITICO. How is the question of whether to prioritize corporate profits or the provision of Coronavirus care products for Americans even a question at all? The issue came up in a briefing this Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence and fellow members of the administration’s Coronavirus response team delivered to Senate Democrats.
Schumer commented, in reference to the price concerns:
‘Our Republican friends don’t want to see the kinds of limitations that we want to see.’
Senate Appropriations ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) added, in reference to the taxpayer money that would be getting used for the Coronavirus supply purchases:
‘We are not going to say the companies after we taxpayers have paid for it, ‘now go out and make a huge profit.’ That’s not going to happen.’
According to some Democrats, the administration’s team “did not have enough answers on testing kits, costs of care and what will happen to people who do not have insurance” — which isn’t exactly surprising. Trump can’t even be convinced to stop calling coverage of the negative aspects of the situation a “hoax.”
According to a senior Democratic aide, Democrats want an eventual Coronavirus vaccine to be made available to the public for free, and although that vaccine may only emerge months down the line, there are many other supplies to deal with in the meantime, like respirators and the diagnostic tests that have been so hard to come by for the first six weeks or so that the virus has spread in the U.S. The virus has already killed nine people in the U.S. and counting, and the number of confirmed cases has grown significantly — but that’s not seemingly weighing on Republicans’ decisions of whether or not to support easy access to Coronavirus care tools.
Leaders on both sides of the aisle in Congress “want to pass an emergency package by the end of this week,” according to POLITICO, and they’re reportedly preparing a spending package that’s significantly larger than the initial $2.5 billion that the Trump administration requested.
In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already been working on developing a Coronavirus test — but they only reached the stunningly low number of around 4,000 people as of early this week. Officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the latter of which is supervising the development of tests for the private sector, claim that testing capabilities will expand later this week.