HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Covid Aid Deal Needs Rework, Senators Say

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Lawmakers will have to renegotiate a Covid therapeutics and vaccine funding agreement because billions of dollars designated as offsets have already been spent, key senators said.

Senators struck a bipartisan deal in April to spend $10 billion on Covid resources, and to offset costs by rescinding previously appropriated funds. But the measure has languished amid a fight over Biden’s plan to end Title 42 immigration policy, and some of the $10 billion in proposed “pay-fors” have already been spent.

Now, some of the key authors of the initial deal, Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), said lawmakers will have to resume negotiations on the offsets when they eventually decide to take up a bill. Between $2 billion and $4 billion of the $10 billion in funds designated as offsets have already been spent, a GOP Senate aide said.

Blunt added that the previous agreement to spend $10 billion overall may also need to change. The needs have increased over nearly two months, he said. White House officials have also repeatedly asked for more than $20 billion in Covid aid.

Romney said lawmakers will have to renegotiate the offsets, but that it won’t happen until Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) looks to take up a bill. He said he believes lawmakers will be able to find enough new offsets when they’re motivated. “We’ll probably need to update the pay-fors, but so far Leader Schumer hasn’t been willing to put the bill on the floor,” Romney said. Read more from Alex Ruoff and Jack Fitzpatrick.

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars

Diagnostics Revamp Inches Forward in FDA User Fee Plan: A Senate proposal to overhaul the way that the FDA regulates diagnostics is raising questions over whether the agency has the resources it needs to undertake such a project. Inclusion of the VALID Act (H.R. 4128) in the Senate’s must-pass draft user fee measure marks a key step in realizing changes to how much oversight the FDA should exert over diagnostic tests. But the bill leaves a lot of text in brackets, indicating there are still major sections that have been proposed but are still up in the air as to how lawmakers will sort that out, including how to fund it. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

Vilsack Sees Formula Shortage Easing in Weeks: Parents impacted by the infant formula shortage should start to see more formula in stores over the next couple weeks, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday, Maeve Sheehey reports.

“Our hope and belief is that we’re beginning the process of turning the corner on this,” he said when Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) asked when there would be relief from the crisis. The Agriculture Secretary noted that some problems will persist as the crisis resolves, adding that parents may need to continue using social networks to locate stores with stocked formula aisles.

  • Meanwhile, Vilsack is pressing Congress to renew child nutrition waivers by next month, when millions of children will no longer qualify for free school meals during summer vacation. The Department of Agriculture waivers, which give schools the flexibility to provide meals to children regardless of family income, are set to expire at the end of June. Maeve Sheehey has more.

What Else to Know Today

CDC to Stop Reporting Suspected Covid Cases: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to simplify the Covid hospital data it collects as demands of the pandemic evolve and some assembled information has been rendered redundant. The CDC is likely to stop collecting hospitals data on unconfirmed Covid cases, and may also reduce federal reporting from rehab centers, a draft of the plan says. Riley Griffin and Drew Armstrong have more.

Treatments Sent to US Monkeypox Patients: The monkeypox outbreak in the US has expanded to include nine cases in seven states, health officials said on Thursday, adding that the outbreak is expanding in countries where the virus doesn’t normally circulate, Madison Muller and Shira Stein report.

Improper Antibiotic Prescriptions Threaten Kids’ Health: Inappropriate antibiotic prescribing among millions of children increased the risk of developing a potentially life-threatening infection by up to eight times, according to a study published Thursday. The study found that improper prescribing of antibiotics may be associated with greater chances of severe allergic reaction and contraction of Clostridioides difficile. Read more from Celine Castronuovo.

HHS Pulls Trump-Era Reviews of Agency Rules: The Health and Human Services Department Thursday withdrew a last-minute Trump administration rule that would have caused health regulations to expire if they weren’t reviewed every 10 years. The administration previously delayed the rule’s implementation two times. Shira Stein has more.

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Editor’s Note: BGOV’s Health Care Briefing will not publish on the Monday, May 30 Memorial Day federal holiday. We’ll resume publication Tuesday, May 31.

With assistance from Maeve Allsup

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at; Michaela Ross at

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