COVID spending bill stalls in Senate as GOP, Dems stalemate

Apr 5, 2022, 9:17 PM | Updated: Apr 7, 2022, 6:17 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — A compromise $10 billion measure buttressing the government’s COVID-19 defenses stalled in the Senate Wednesday and seemed all but certainly sidetracked for weeks, victim of a campaign-season fight over the incendiary issue of immigration.

There was abundant finger-pointing but no signs the two parties were near resolving their stalemate over a bipartisan pandemic bill that President Joe Biden and top Democrats wanted Congress to approve this week. With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., prioritizing the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by week’s end — quite possibly Thursday — the COVID-19 bill seemed sure to slip at least until Congress returns after a two-week recess.

A day earlier, the GOP blocked the Senate from even beginning debate on the bill, which would increase funding for COVID-19 treatments, vaccines and testing. Republicans were demanding that Democrats allow a vote on an amendment preserving immigration curbs imposed by President Donald Trump that the Biden administration is slated to end on May 23.

“Why did Republicans say no? Because they wanted to cripple COVID funding legislation with poison pills that they knew would derail this bill,” Schumer said Wednesday.

Schumer and a team of GOP negotiators led by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney struck a deal Monday on the pandemic bill. Democrats say Republicans are walking away from that agreement.

“The question we have is whether Republicans are acting in good faith to provide the resources we need to save American lives, or if they’re just playing politics,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “The virus is not waiting for Republicans in Congress to get their act together.”

While there would likely be at least the 10 GOP votes needed to push the pandemic bill through the 50-50 Senate, overall Republican support for it is tepid. And the GOP’s effort to refocus the fight to immigration — an issue that polls show hurts Biden — has clearly put Democrats on the defensive.

A vote on extending the immigration restrictions would expose Democratic senators, especially those facing tight reelections in November, to dangerous fissures. Liberal immigration advocates want Biden to erase the curbs, but doing that is expected to prompt an explosion of migrants entering the U.S. from Mexico that could trigger a voter backlash.

“We can win it,” No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota said about a potential immigration vote. “They’ve got a number of Democrats who are for it. But their leadership is adamantly opposed, I would say hostile to the idea” of a vote.

When the pandemic was full-blown in 2020, Trump began letting authorities immediately expel asylum seekers and other migrants, citing the threat to public health. COVID-19’s intensity has since waned in the U.S., though BA.2, a new omicron variant, is beginning to spread widely here.

Even GOP supporters of the pandemic bill say Democrats must resolve the legislative roadblock.

“They’re in the majority. And the administration says they need this money. And I actually agree with the administration,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who helped negotiate the package. “And the majority has to figure out how to get this done.”

Among Democrats who favor retaining the immigration restrictions for now is Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who is facing reelection. He and several others cite a need for federal officials to gear up staffing and facilities to handle the expected influx of migrants.

“I have not seen a plan for how the administration will deal with what I think is a pretty predictable surge on the border,” he said Wednesday in a brief interview.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declined to discuss what she would do if the Senate sent her chamber a pandemic measure that also extended Trump’s immigration strictures.

“Is that even something that the Senate would do?” she told a reporter. “When they send something, I’ll let you know what we would do with it.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., bristled when asked why Democrats wouldn’t simply accept the immigration restrictions as the price for winning the pandemic spending Biden says is needed.

“Your premise is whatever they put in there, take,” Hoyer said. “Uh uh, we’re not going to play that game.”

That reflects a Democratic view that the Republican effort to force an immigration vote is all about setting a political trap.

“Trust me, this is one of the pillars of their reelection campaign, immigration,” said No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois. “The numbers appearing at our border are a real challenge, and I’m sure they’re going to make an issue of it.”


Associated Press writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

Associated Press

Treasury creates new strike force as US and China pursue crackdown on illicit fentanyl trafficking

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department on Monday announced a new strike force to help combat illicit fentanyl trafficking as the U.S. and China step up efforts to stop the movement of the powerful opioid and drug-making materials into the U.S. The Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force will bring together personnel and intelligence from throughout the Treasury […]

20 minutes ago

Associated Press

4 killed, including a 1-year-old boy, in a shooting at a Dallas home

DALLAS (AP) — Four people, including a 1-year-old boy, were killed and a 15-year-old girl was injured in a shooting at a Dallas home, police said. Officers responding to the home Sunday afternoon in the far southeast area of the city found that five people had been shot. Three adults died at the scene; the […]

30 minutes ago

In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, Airman 1st Class Jackson Ligon, 341st Missile Mainten...

Associated Press

The Air Force is expanding a review of cancers for service members who worked with nuclear missiles

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Air Force is expanding its study of whether service members who worked with nuclear missiles have had unusually high rates of cancer after a preliminary review determined that a deeper examination is needed. The initial study was launched in response to reports that many who served are now ill. The Air […]

35 minutes ago

Associated Press

Former top Ohio utility regulator surrenders in $60 million bribery scheme linked to energy bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s former top utility regulator surrendered Monday in connection with a $60 million bribery scheme related to a legislative bailout for two Ohio nuclear power plants that has already resulted in a 20-year prison sentence for a former state House speaker. Sam Randazzo, former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Fire blamed on e-bike battery kills 1, injures 6 in Bronx apartment building

NEW YORK (AP) — One person was killed and six others were injured when a fire blamed on an electric bicycle battery tore through a New York City apartment, officials said Monday. The fire started at around 7 p.m. Sunday in a 10th-floor apartment in a public housing complex in the Bronx, a Fire Department […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young speaks about the possible government...

Associated Press

White House warns Congress the US is out of money, nearly out of time to avoid ‘kneecap’ to Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Monday sent Congress an urgent warning about the need to approve tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Ukraine, saying Kyiv’s war effort to defend itself from Russia’s invasion may grind to a halt without it. In a letter to House and Senate leaders […]

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.


Dierdre Woodruff

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

COVID spending bill stalls in Senate as GOP, Dems stalemate