ICYMI: Blue Dog Leadership Calls for Vote on Standalone Bill with President Biden’s Vaccination Request as Congress Moves Forward with Comprehensive COVID Relief
WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the Co-Chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition—Reps. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Ed Case (HI-01), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), and Kurt Schrader (OR-05)—sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Lead Chuck Schumer calling for a vote on a standalone bill focused on the vaccine development and distribution portion of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which calls for $20 billion in funding from Congress. This vote would take place while Congress continues to craft and move forward with a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package as fast as possible. The proposed legislative strategy would directly support President Biden’s goal of delivering 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days of the Administration. The Blue Dog Coalition was the first caucus in the House and Senate to call for a standalone vote on vaccine distribution and development while Congress moves forward as quickly as possible with a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package.
"People are desperate to get access to the vaccine. This vaccine money can get out without having an impact on the reconciliation process, which also needs to move quickly." – Rep. Stephanie Murphy said to NBC News on Thursday, February 4, 2021.
SEE BELOW FOR THE FULL LETTER TEXT:
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer:
As Members of the Blue Dog Coalition, we write to respectfully express our view regarding Congress’s consideration of the American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
We share the Administration’s sense of urgency. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment and are struggling to put food on the table. As coronavirus variants begin to develop and spread across the country, states are struggling to keep up with the demand for vaccines and need relief without delay. Therefore, our preferred legislative approach is to swiftly vote on the portion of the Administration’s proposal focused on vaccine development and distribution, while the other larger, complementary elements of the proposed package are crafted and move through the House and Senate as quickly as possible. We believe a standalone vaccine bill would pass the House, obtain at least 60 votes in the Senate, and could be signed into law by President Biden this month. Providing immediate support for vaccination efforts would save lives and strengthen the economy as we work finalize the full Rescue plan.
Under our recommended approach, we would consider this vaccine-focused bill in parallel with the reconciliation process. We believe this simultaneous, two-track process is preferable to a reconciliation-only approach because—based on precedent—passing a reconciliation bill through both chambers could take several months under the most optimistic scenario. It is hard for us to understand why our constituents and our states should have to wait until March or even April for us to deliver essential support for our nation’s vaccination efforts, if we have the votes to pass a standalone bill this month.
We are proposing this course of action because we believe that a vaccine-only bill would pass both chambers faster than the larger package. However, if we are mistaken, and Senate Republicans block this vaccine-targeted legislation, we can simply continue to include its provisions in the reconciliation bill. We will be in the exact same position as the reconciliation process moves forward, and no time will be lost.
As pragmatic Democrats, we are laser-focused on delivering results. We believe Congress should pursue this legislative option to provide the immediate vaccination support our communities and country need, as we work with urgency to deliver the larger package required to address this health and economic crisis.