Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), after spearheading a failed COVID-19 negotiation on Capitol Hill, accused the White House of misleading Congress about the urgency and necessity of COVID-19 funding on Thursday.
The outrage from Romney comes after he previously helped to secure a $10 billion bipartisan spending agreement that would allow the Biden administration to purchase vaccines, anti-virals, and therapeutics, per the administration’s request.
In a scathing monologue during a congressional hearing, Romney accused the White House of misleading him and his colleagues after the Biden administration announced that it had repurposed existing funding to pay for $10 billion worth of vaccines and therapeutic purchases without Congress, reported STAT.
Romney blasted the administration’s claims earlier this year that it was unable to purchase more COVID-19 vaccines, anti-virals, and therapeutics as “patently false.” Romney stated further that he “wouldn’t have worked that hard” to secure a bipartisan funding deal had the administration made known the other funds available to be repurposed to Congress.
In a letter addressed to Senator Romney from Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on March 7, Becerra attempted to answer Romney’s inquiries regarding the Biden administration’s request for more congressional funding.
In addressing Romney’s question, “When does the Administration plan to request an additional $30 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, and if it does so, what would be the purpose of the request?”
“The United States government has utilized previous funding to get over 215 million Americans fully vaccinated, begin to make 1 billion tests available to Americans for free, secure 20 million antiviral treatment pills, and commit to donating 1.2 billion vaccines to the world. These resources also allowed a forceful response to the Delta and Omicron surges. We appreciate Congressional support for these efforts. However, nearly all these funds have been used.
Without additional resources, the US government won’t be able to secure the treatments, vaccines, and tests that Americans will need in the coming months. Moreover, critical COVID-19 response efforts – such as free community testing sites and testing, treatment, and vaccination coverage for uninsured individuals – will end this spring. The Administration’s supplemental request, which OMB submitted in a formal request to Congress on March 1, 2022, is $22.5 billion for the COVID-19 response, of which $18.25 billion is for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This request will cover immediate needs for tests, treatments and vaccines, investments in research and development of next-generation vaccines, and responding globally, including getting more shots in arms around the world.”
Romney commented further on the matter, stating that the administration’s decision to not disclose unpurposed funds to Congress makes it harder for the legislative and executive branches to work together:
“I hope that there’s an appreciation that for the administration to say they could not purchase these things, and then after several months, divert some funds and then purchase them is unacceptable, and makes our ability to work together and have confidence in what we’re being told very much shaken to the core.”
The White House hasn’t responded to Romney’s comments.