Biden seeks $32 billion for Ukraine, Covid response


TGIAF! The Biden administration is asking Congress for $32.5 billion in additional funding to address two top priorities right now: aid to Ukraine and the pandemic response. Here’s what you need to know.

White House cuts Covid funding request amid Republican opposition…

The Biden administration is asking Congress for $22.5 billion to fund its ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a significant decrease from the $30 billion the Department of Health and Human Services has told officials. legislators that he would need two weeks ago. About $18.25 billion of the total would be used to boost public health programs, while $4.25 billion would target vaccine research and development.

The reduced demand comes amid considerable Republican resistance to providing more federal funds for the pandemic response. As we told you
yesterday, a group of GOP senators led by Mitt Romney of Utah sent a letter to the White House questioning the need for additional funding and demanding better accounting for the more than $5 trillion in government aid. pandemic emergency already provided by Congress. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, told reporters Thursday that he would not support the Biden administration’s request.

“I think we should figure out – and we’ve asked the administration – how much unspent money is left,” Shelby said. “There are billions of dollars unspent. The American people need an accounting of what’s left. Let’s spend that before we start borrowing more.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the minority whip, said there was strong support in his caucus for Shelby’s approach, and that Republicans would oppose adding a additional pandemic funding to the $1.5 trillion annual spending package for 2022 that lawmakers are trying to wrap up by March 11, at least until we have a better idea of ​​the where and how the funding has been used so far. “There is a general belief that there is a lot of money still circulating and before we spend more of it we need to account for it,” Thune said. “And I think that even includes people who might otherwise be inclined to support some of the things that would be included in it.”

Democrats have said they will continue to push for additional funding. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the money “is absolutely necessary” to deal with the ongoing pandemic. “In fact, we’ll probably need more because we need more therapies,” she said. “It’s science, it’s moving forward, so hopefully they’ll see the wisdom of science in terms of what we need for COVID because the last thing we need is more transmission,” she added.

…While stimulating demand for aid from Ukraine

Last week, the Biden administration requested $6.4 billion to respond to the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine, split between $2.9 billion for humanitarian assistance and $3.5 billion for the military support. On Thursday, the White House increased the total request to $10 billion, with $4.8 billion going to the Department of Defense, $5 billion to the State Department, and the rest split between the departments of Treasury, Commerce, Justice and Energy.

About $1.8 billion in military aid would cover the cost of moving more US troops to Europe, while $1.75 billion would be used to replace weapons and supplies provided to Ukraine. An additional $500 million would go to direct military assistance to Ukraine and NATO countries in Eastern Europe.

The request is for “emergency” funding, which means that the money would be additional to established budgets and would not require any reduction in planned spending. The funds would be in addition to the $650 million in security assistance already provided to Ukraine, as well as $52 million in humanitarian assistance and $1 billion in loan guarantees.

Lawmakers could potentially meet the request by adding it to the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2022, currently being negotiated in Congress and facing a March 11 deadline.

The White House said this week that the latest request for help is unlikely to be the last. “Given the rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine, I anticipate additional needs may arise over time,” Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, told Congress on Wednesday. “This funding request is based on the administration’s best information on resource needs at this time, and we will stay in touch with Congress in the weeks and months ahead as we assess resource needs. beyond those immediate needs.”

Nonprofit drugmaker announces plan to cut insulin cost

President Joe Biden this week reiterated his call for Congress to cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month, criticizing drug companies who he says can make insulin for around $10 a vial but charge up to 30 times more.

A not-for-profit generic drug company isn’t waiting for lawmakers to act.

Civica RX on Thursday announced plans to manufacture and distribute generic versions of the drug “at significantly lower prices than insulins currently on the market.” Civica said it plans to set its prices at a maximum of $30 per vial and $55 for a box of five pen cartridges – levels that Christopher Rowland of the Washington Post
Remarks are “a fraction of current prices that currently range from $125 to over $500”. The company said its pricing would be based on the cost of development, production and distribution.

“We know that to truly solve the insulin cost and access issues that so many Americans face, we need a process — from manufacturing to transparent pricing — that ultimately reduces the cost of the drug for people with diabetes,” said Martin VanTrieste. , President and CEO of Civica Rx. “With that in mind, we’ll make sure patients know where Civica’s low-cost insulin is available.”

Civica was launched in 2018 by hospital systems and health philanthropies with the aim of producing generic drugs under a
different model to alleviate chronic drug shortages. The company says it now supplies around 60 generic injectable drugs to more than 55 hospital systems representing more than 1,500 hospitals. It said it plans to start selling insulin in 2024, after completing construction of a 140,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Petersburg, Virginia. Civica’s insulins will also need to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Why is this important: The high cost of insulin has been at the center of the fight to bring down prescription drug prices, and stories abound of diabetics rationing their insulin or being forced to choose between life-saving drugs and basic expenses. The plan Biden touted this week would only cap costs for patients with Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, which advocates say would leave the most needy patients still facing full retail price payments. .

And as vital as low-cost insulin is for the more than 7 million Americans who rely on the drug, Walid Gellad, associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Post. that the announcement of Civica Rx could have wider-reaching implications. “Just as the benefit of this is to provide insulin at low cost, it’s also a proof of concept, I think, of a new way of delivering lifesaving drugs that shouldn’t cost as much,” did he declare. . “Furthermore, this is another entrant to the transparent drug pricing model, which does not depend on a complicated reimbursement system or inflated fees to operate.”


Views and Analysis

  • Progressives say they are open to Manchin’s new framework. So what’s the heist? – Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, Washington Post

  • Manchin makes Biden a good offer. But will Sinema buy it? –Ed Kilgore, New York

  • A speech that moved Biden to the center –Ruth Marcus, Washington Post
  • What Biden should do now – Harold Meyerson, American prospect

  • We can’t pass up the opportunity to reduce drug prices – Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), The Hill

  • Biden was perfect: the meat monopoly is real and insidious – Timothy Noah, New Republic

  • The state of our Union’s health care will not be fixed by Biden’s proposals – Helaine Olen, Washington Post

  • Dethroning King Dollar won’t be easy –Robert Burgess, Bloomberg

  • The real reason Republicans are blocking Biden’s Fed nominees – David Dayen, American Prospect

  • We already have a solution to the oil price shock–David Fickling, Bloomberg

  • Cities are dropping vaccination mandates for dining out and watching shows. Did they work? – Fenit Nirappil, Washington Post

  • Covid ain’t over, but it’s over for me –Kate Cohen, Washington Post

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