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Republican Senators Accuse White House of Dissembling on Covid Aid

The Republican senator who had been main negotiations with the White House over new pandemic reduction funding accused the Biden administration on Thursday of giving him “patently false” data when it mentioned it was out of cash to purchase extra coronavirus vaccines and coverings, in a tense alternate that appeared to additional dim the probabilities of Congress approving new funds.

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, mentioned throughout a heated Senate well being committee listening to that he was shocked final week when White House officers announced they would repurpose $10 billion in federal Covid-19 dollars meant for virus testing and protecting gear and as a substitute spend the cash on antiviral medication and vaccines. That, he maintained, meant the administration was not out of cash for coronavirus provides in any case — despite the fact that the White House has made clear it will be shortchanging some sorts of provides by redirecting funds to replenish others.

Administration officers have mentioned for months that until Congress licensed new spending, they might be unable to purchase extra capsules and photographs in anticipation of a attainable fall wave. The White House has requested Congress for $22.5 billion in emergency reduction; Mr. Romney helped negotiate a $10 billion compromise, which stays stalled.

“Washington operates on a relationship of trust between the respective parties, the administration and Congress,” Mr. Romney mentioned, “For the administration to provide information to us that was patently false, is something which dramatically attacks that trust.”

Dawn O’Connell, the assistant well being secretary for emergency preparedness and response, testified that the administration needed to make “significant trade-offs — trade-offs that we none of us wanted to make” — in rerouting the $10 billion.

She mentioned the cash come partially from the administration’s coronavirus testing program, and from the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s emergency medical reserve, which she mentioned could be not have the ability to buy domestically manufactured surgical robes, and can “struggle to be able to maintain” its present ranges of protecting gear in consequence. Stockpile shortages had been a serious downside early within the pandemic, when many well being care employees had been contaminated or died for lack of obligatory protecting gear.

Mr. Romney’s remark mirrored a broader political theme that Republicans are prone to increase throughout of their midterm election campaigns: that the administration had wasted Covid-19 reduction {dollars}, an accusation that the White House has sought to refute. Jenn Psaki, the previous White House press secretary, brought a 385-page briefing book to the White House press room in April, which she mentioned detailed what cash had been spent, when and for what motive.

“We’ve also given Congress a full accounting of every dollar that’s been spent,” Ms. Psaki mentioned then.

Thursday’s session was the primary Senate well being committee listening to on the coronavirus response since January — an indication that curiosity within the pandemic is waning on Capitol Hill, in addition to across the nation. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic, testified remotely from dwelling, the place he is isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Robert Califf, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, additionally testified.

Each of the witnesses made a plea for more cash; Dr. Walensky, for instance, mentioned that with no contemporary infusion of funds the C.D.C. wouldn’t have the ability to proceed surveillance research, together with “comprehensive monitoring of post-Covid conditions” and research of new moms with Covid, and the way their sickness impacts their infants.

Republicans have insisted that any new cash be offset with cuts to different packages. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the rating Republican on the well being committee, closed the listening to with a blistering evaluation, accusing Democrats and the White House of “trying to pressure Republicans to open a checkbook, sign the check and let the administration fill in the balance with no detail on how when or what was being asked for.”

“Nobody has worked harder on this issue, I think, on the Hill than I have,” Mr. Burr went on. “Nobody’s gone to bat for emergency money with no strings attached more than I have. But there is a point in time where my patience runs out.”

Mr. Romney — the 2012 Republican presidential nominee— sounded extra harm than indignant. He mentioned wouldn’t have “worked as hard” over “many weeks and intensive negotiations” if he had recognized different cash was accessible.

“We should be apprised of what those trade-offs are, and have that discussion and help make that decision together,” he instructed Ms. O’Connell. “You shouldn’t be able to say, ‘Hey, we’re looking at trade-offs. We’re not going to tell you about them.’ ”

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