Congress Close to Deal on Funds to Fight Coronavirus

By and | March 4, 2020

Negotiators in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate neared a deal on Wednesday on a multi-billion-dollar emergency bill to battle the coronavirus as they narrowed differences over the cost of potential vaccines, congressional aides said.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey told Reuters that she expected the bill to total “a little over” $8 billion and that if a deal was reached, the legislation likely would face a vote late on Wednesday or on Thursday.

Once the full House approves the bill, the Senate is expected to act quickly so that Republican President Donald Trump can sign the measure into law, putting billions of dollars into the pipeline to help stop or slow the spread of the virus.

The legislation is expected to speed the development of possible vaccines and help state and local governments meet the costs of containment.

Progress slowed this week as Democrats and Republicans tangled over the price and availability of vaccines should they come onto the market this year or next.

“It’s really down to the last throes. But there are one or two things to be cleared up,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, a senior Democrat on Lowey’s committee, told Reuters.

Democrats were insisting that the spending bill contain language stating that any coronavirus vaccine be priced at a “fair and reasonable” level, according to a source close to the negotiations.

Democrats also want the government to help pay for vaccines to help those who might not be able to afford them.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, accused Democrats of trying to create a new set of price controls that could slow a drug’s development.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Editing by Howard Goller)

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