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Senate lawmakers reached a $10 billion package for COVID-19 relief measures, but the deal fell far short of the more than $22 billion the Biden administration was pushing.
The slimmed-down compromise cuts all funding to help countries abroad – especially poorer ones – fight the pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader and Chief Democratic Negotiator Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said the pact would provide “the tools we need” to help the United States recover from the economic blows that COVID- 19 has inflicted over the past two years, but noted that the $10 billion “falls far short of what is needed to keep us safe” over time.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the GOP’s chief negotiator, said the $10 billion in funding was crucial to meeting “urgent COVID needs” and “won’t cost the American people a single extra dollar.”
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The measure is fully paid for by withdrawing unspent funds from previous pandemic relief bills that have been signed into law, negotiators said.
According to Romney’s fact sheet, these savings include more than $2 billion from a fund protecting aviation manufacturing jobs; nearly $2 billion in cash to help entertainment venues shut down by the pandemic; an additional $1.9 billion from a program that helps states extend credit to small businesses; and $1.6 billion from agricultural assistance programs.
Romney said he was open to discussing additional funding for the U.S. global vaccine program in the coming weeks.
At least half of the trade-off should be used to research and produce therapies to treat the disease, according to Schumer and Romney’s fact sheets.
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The money would also be used to buy vaccines and tests. At least $750 million would be used to research new variants of COVID-19 and to expand vaccine production, according to the descriptions.
Leaders of both parties were negotiating a $15 billion version of the bill last month. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., scrapped that plan after Democratic lawmakers rejected proposed cuts in state pandemic aid to help pay for the package.
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The deal will need to attract at least 10 GOP votes to pass the Senate 50-50. Those votes should be there. Lawmakers hope the bill will be approved this week before going on a two-week break in the spring.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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