‘Fundamental Lack Of Strategy’: GOP Sens. Blunt, Burr Demand Answers From Biden Administration On COVID Test Shortage
U.S. President Joe Biden exits after speaking in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Monday, GOP Sens. Roy Blunt (MO) and Richard Burr (NC) sent a scathing letter to the Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, asking for an explanation on the shortage of COVID-19 tests available to the public. 

“With over $82.6 billion specifically appropriated for testing, and flexibility within the Department to allocate additional funds from COVID-19 supplemental bills or annual appropriations if necessary, it is unclear to us why we are facing such dire circumstances now,” the letter read. “It does not appear to be because of lack of funding, but a more fundamental lack of strategy and a failure to anticipate future testing needs by the administration.”

In late December, President Biden told members of the media that his administration did not reject a “holiday testing surge.” 

“Departing the @WhiteHouse for Marine One with @FLOTUS, @POTUS is asked about the @VanityFair article alleging his administration rejected a holiday testing surge,” Steve Herman tweeted on December 27. “‘We didn’t reject it,’ he replies.”

More recently, Biden was asked when Americans will get free COVID-19 tests — he stared ahead blankly and did not answer. 

Two weeks ago, Biden announced that the government would mail COVID-19 tests to anyone who wanted them. He stated:

We also need to do better with at-home testing.  So, I’m announcing today: The federal government will purchase one half billion — that’s not million; billion with a “B” — additional at-home rapid tests, with deliveries starting in January. 

We’ll be getting these tests to Americans for free.  And we’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home. 

We have arranged for it to be easier for you to find a free COVID testing site near you on Google.  Just enter “COVID test near me” in the Google search bar and you can find a number of different locations nearby where you can get tested.

And we’re going to continue to use the Defense Production Act as we did earlier this month to make sure we’re producing as many tests and as quickly as possible. 

The letter sent to the administration by the senators began by reminding Becerra of the legislation passed in 2020 to fund the HHS for “testing-related activities.” Five bipartisan bills were passed in 2020 that gave $34.8 billion to the department. In 2021, an additional $47.8 billion for testing was included in the reconciliation package. The senators wrote, “Yet today our country faces a testing shortage, with long lines to obtain a PCR test, and empty shelves for Americans seeking to purchase rapid tests.”

Sens. Blunt and Burr went on to ask the administration a series of questions regarding the government’s strategy for COVID-19 testing, finishing with a request for answers.

“We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter,” the letter concluded. “As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that Congress, and the American people, have an understanding of the administration’s strategy and accounting of how the Department is using taxpayer funding.”

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