House Majority Leader: White House seeking 'emergency' stimulus bill in response to Omicron
"I expect for there to be additional sums requested, substantial sums to be requested," Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer said.
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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer revealed Tuesday that the White House is going to ask Congress for a "substantial" sum in the form of an "emergency" supplemental funding bill to deal with the impact of the Omicron variant in the U.S.
Hoyer, the House's No. 2 Democrat, was asked if he expects lawmakers to appropriate more aid in addition to regular federal appropriations to deal with the Omicron variant.
"It has an immediacy and an urgency that should compel us to move quickly," Hoyer told reporters on a press call, referring to Omicron. "The administration is talking about a supplemental appropriation, which I would think would be an emergency legislation, because we have an emergency that this extraordinary transmissibility of this Omicron variant is showing us where we have geometric increases in people are becoming sick; that's the bad news."
Hoyer said the good news is the variant is not life threatening for most people who have been vaccinated and had a booster shot.
"I think the administration will be coming down in the near term with a request, not only for health activities in America, but also, it is clear that if we do not help substantially around the world in getting people vaccinated, that the variant will continue to have host people to have another variant and another variant and another variant," Hoyer said. "So I expect for there to be additional sums requested, substantial sums to be requested, to deal with and confront and try to contend with the coronavirus that has afflicted us now for almost two years."
During the pandemic, Congress has spent more than $5 trillion in 3 separate stimulus bills. The national debt has hit $29.7 trillion and is fast approaching $30 trillion for the first time, according to the latest Treasury Department data.
The Maryland Democrat cited more funding to increase access to COVID-19 testing as a priority as well as vaccine distribution in the U.S. and abroad.
"We ought to have tests free, the home test, and other tests, ought to be free so that we can encourage and incentivize people to get tested to know whether they're sick," he said. "And also to make sure that the ease of access to vaccinations is such that there is no impediment other than people's, for whatever reasons, desire or intention not to be vaccinated. And I find it hard to understand that action."
Hoyer also mentioned public schools as an area the emergency funding bill would cover.
"Clearly, as well, we need to make sure that schools have the resources to keep themselves safe because we need to get children back into schools. Some are in schools now but it's clear that the virtual learning is hurting a lot of kids for the last year," he said. "And the longer it goes on the greater detriment there will be to their learning."
According to the Government Accountability Office, "supplemental appropriations laws (supplementals) are a tool for policymakers to address needs that arise after the fiscal year has begun."
Some lawmakers are reportedly in discussions about additional stimulus funds for certain businesses due to the impact of the Omicron variant.