The Congress is working toward a $7.5 billion emergency spending package for the COVID-19 response, and it was supposed to have been made public early Tuesday. It provides additional funding to the Department of Health and Human Services for programs within its agencies; funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health for vaccine development, medical supplies, and equipment; and aid to states and local governments. But there's a hurdle: Republicans who don't like language in it that would keep drug companies from price gouging on vaccines and treatments.
"Democrats want the supplemental to include significant funding for the federal government to purchase large quantities of coronavirus diagnostics, treatments and vaccine [when it becomes available], which will then be made available to the public without cost," a Democratic aide told Roll Call. The government did this in 2009 during the swine flu outbreak. Democrats are also pushing language to ensure that "fair and reasonable price" standards that are included in existing contracting regulations are vigorously applied to drug companies supplying the eventual vaccine and treatments to the government. Republicans, however, want people to have to pay up.