|WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, appeared on Fox News with Martha MacCallum to discuss the ongoing shortage of COVID-19 tests and the Biden administration’s failure to utilize billions in congressionally-approved funding to ensure tests are available to every American.
This week, Blunt and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (N.C.) sent a letter urging U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to detail the administration’s strategy for solving the nation’s severe shortage of COVID-19 tests as coronavirus cases driven by the omicron variant continue to skyrocket.
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|Following Are Excerpts of Blunt’s Interview with Martha MacCallum:
On Demanding Answers from Biden Administration on Dire Covid-19 Test Shortage:
“Senator Burr, who has the authorizing committee, I have the appropriating committee, as the top two Republicans on each of those committees, we sent a letter [this] week to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. We actually have about $10 billion that weren’t in that adding up that you just went through. If you take all five of the bipartisan COVID bills, that’s about $32 billion, and then about $45-46 billion in the bill that the Democrats passed by themselves this year for testing. And the real question is: how was that money spent? How could we have a testing shortage now when, at the end of last year, we had what appeared to be a whole new series of tests coming on the market? And I think my other question would be: if the federal government thinks they can buy 500 million at-home tests by the end of this month, where are those tests now? You don’t have to look very hard to go to a drugstore and find out that they’re out of those tests. You’d think if they’re available, they’d be on the store shelves right now rather than waiting somewhere for the federal government to buy 500 million of those tests. And again, remember this is $82-83 billion have gone into testing, and they’ve had all of that money for a minimum of nine months. And suddenly we have a testing shortage. I think one of the questions is: was that money spent for other things? And, if it was, how do you justify that if you’re the administration and the department?”
“Well, you know, what we’re seeing here—and let’s just even talk about the $47.8 billion that Democrats all by themselves decided in March that they were going to spend on testing. Where did that money go? Did you decide that, if you’re the administration, decide, ‘well, we’ve got a lot of flexibility because of the way that bill was uniquely written so that that money could be spent in more ways than you could normally spend appropriated money.’ Where did that money go? Did you decide that the crisis is behind us and so let’s spend that money on something else? That’s exactly the questions we’re asking now.”
On Questions Surrounding Funding Allocations & Future Preparedness:
“And, of course, it’s always the problem in preparedness for what might come next is that, once you get around that corner, people can say, ‘well, maybe we don’t need that money in stockpiled vaccines, or maybe we don’t need that money in an Ebola preparation effort, let’s spend it somewhere else right now because I don’t think we’re going to need it.’ And then you find out, like with this testing money, that you needed it. You needed to spend it months ago, and what was the worst thing that could have happened if those tests were in stores right now and people could get them? And then you combine that with a suggestion that everybody has to have even another test before they think about going to work after they’re beyond the window of where COVID should last. You’re telling people to do something and then almost guaranteeing they don’t have the resources to do what they need to do. And it’s not that they don’t have the money to have what they need. It’s just that they simply don’t have what they need because that money hasn’t been spent the way we were told it was going to be spent.”
On the Biden Administration’s Lack of Guidelines to Schools:
“I think often this money was dispersed without the guidelines that schools needed or the guidelines that states needed. And now we’re seeing what happens when there’s not an understanding of what you can use that money for. Because when you don’t have an understanding, a lot of people think, ‘well, maybe if we just don’t spend it now, we can spend it later for something we want to spend it on.'”