Republican lawmakers are asking President Joe Biden why COVID-19 tests are not yet widely available in the United States — despite trillions in COVID-19 stimulus.
Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) — who serve as Republican leaders for multiple key committees — observed in a letter to President Biden that Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has said there are $10 billion in unspent funds for COVID-19 tests.
“Who made the decision to not exhaust these funds prior to the holiday season?” they asked the commander-in-chief. “Will the remaining funds be used for the federal response, or will some be disbursed to states?”
They asked the Biden administration to explain its rejection of an October proposal that would have added more than 730 million at-home COVID tests to the market per month. “Who was authorized to make this decision? Why were more proactive measures not taken to prepare for future variants, given the spread of the Delta variant over the summer?”
Additionally, the lawmakers noted that only 9% of Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan’s spending allocations “actually went to public health spending to fight the virus,” while the rest went to bailing out state governments and other social programs. They detailed the wasteful use of these funds — including New York spending $2.1 billion for “direct checks to illegal immigrants,” Michigan giving $3,200 stimulus checks to prison inmates, and Chicago spending $31 million on a guaranteed income program.
“American taxpayers deserve an honest and detailed accounting of where the $6 trillion in COVID-19 relief passed by Congress has been spent and how much remains,” the lawmakers wrote. “Your Administration has misused taxpayer dollars to spend on items unrelated to COVID-19 and repurposed funds for the southern border crisis of your own creation.”
“The American people deserve transparency and answers to these important questions from their government before being asked to further foot the bill for another attempt by your White House to spend hundreds of billions or even trillions more in the name of ‘combatting COVID-19.’ A permanent pandemic narrative cannot be used by your office to avoid this responsibility,” they continued.
Indeed, the Biden administration has faced immense pressure over its apparent failure to make COVID-19 testing kits widely available. On Monday, Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki why President Joe Biden’s administration has been so “unprepared” for the uptick in demand for COVID-19 testing.
“I heard the president say, ‘Google COVID tests near me.’ So, as somebody isolating with COVID, I did that, and the appointments everywhere were completely jammed. So, why is it you guys were so unprepared for the need for testing after the holidays?” Doocy asked.
“Well, Peter, I’m happy to see you back and well,” Psaki replied. “I would second say that there has been a massive surge in cases — as you know and were a part of — in D.C. and New York. And there has been an unprecedented — and in other parts of the country as well — there’s been unprecedented demand for tests.”
“So what we have done over the course of the last few weeks, and even before that, is the president quadrupled our testing capacity since the summer,” Psaki continued. “We opened 20,000 sites across the country and we’ve also opened additional federal sites, including one in D.C. only recently.”
Doocy pressed further: “At the rate you guys are going, these tests are not going to be available until spring. So will you admit that these free tests you guys promised are not going to be ready until after the Omicron surge?”
Psaki responded that tests would be available “very soon.”