This is not a welcome headline: “Reported COVID-19 infection levels nearly 6 times higher than last Memorial Day.” Last week also marked the eighth consecutive week of increasing COVID-19 cases, and that’s reported cases. The increase in infections is greater than the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) knows because at-home testing is so widely available now. That’s averaging out to 110,000 new cases a day, and last week 112,000 new pediatric cases were reported. Vaccines have helped make infections less dangerous, but the hospitalization rate is also increasing, with more than 3,500 admissions a day on average.
That, the CDC says suggests there is a “high potential for healthcare system strain,” and a “high level of severe disease.” The Biden administration is still, again, warning that very soon it is not going to be able to respond to increasing demand and might have to start rationing care. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator raised the alarm two weeks ago, before Congress left for Memorial Day recess, as the White House has been doing for months.
A funding deal to allow the government to restock vaccines, treatments, and tests, and to pay for COVID-19 prevention and treatment for the uninsured remains elusive. Without it, Jha said, “I think we would see a lot of unnecessary loss of life.[…] But we’re looking at all the scenarios and planning for all of them.” Given the Republicans’ attitude toward unnecessary loss of life—outside the womb, that is—the administration should be planning on a scenario in which there is no funding from Congress.
At this point, the $10 million that has been being talked about since March is basically defunct. That’s partly because some of the money House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leadership had identified to redirect (or take) from state and local governments has been spent. Instead of identifying new sources of funding or arguing that it’s still a goddamned emergency that you can just pay for without robbing anyone else, leadership is out there trying to figure out where to get it from. A good start might be those billions taken in fraud by large corporate interests.
“They’re trying to see whether they can sort out acceptable offsets with the Republicans,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Politico, speaking about congressional leadership. By leadership, they seem to mean House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Senate Dems and Schumer aren’t considering another negotiation on offsets. They already did two of them—one blocked by House Ds and the other by Senate Rs. It’s up to Pelosi and McConnell now,” one Senate aide said.
Republicans have insisted that it will only pass if it includes a provision forcing the Biden administration to keep Trump-era pandemic border restrictions. House Democrats balked early this year when they discovered at the last minute that the funding was coming from their own states and districts. Given that money has been spent, they were right—it was needed where it was originally directed.
“The 50-50 Senate sucks,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) correctly told reporters. “So far [COVID-19 funding] hasn’t moved,” she said. “But then neither has sensible gun legislation, neither has voting rights.”
That’s because Republicans simply don’t care. It’s because two Democratic senators are more wrapped up in their own egos and power trips to recognize that.
“I have a hard time believing that there’s not enough money and not enough flexibility already” to use it, said Sen. Kevin Cramer, (R-ND). “I would imagine at this point way over half of our members will vote against this, no matter what. So the question is what do you do to get it acceptable to 10 or 12” Republican senators, said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). “And I don’t know.”
So it is looking highly likely that the U.S. is going to move into the fall and winter months behind on COVID-19, and it’s hard to seen anything shaking Republicans out of their opposition. It’s just as hard to see Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema seeing the light and realizing that it is within their power to fix it. Somehow masses of people dying unnecessarily, preventably just doesn’t move them.
Powered by WPeMatico