Finally! Government funding for pandemic defense bill passed

Written by By Madeline Conway, CNN

After a sleepless week, the US Senate finally passed a package of bills aimed at protecting American pandemic response systems.

The Pandemic and Allergies Reauthorization Act passed in the Senate late Thursday by a vote of 87-12. It would ensure government funding is available at least until September 2020 for the development and implementation of strategies to protect the country from new strains of disease, including new viruses emerging from animal sources.

The legislation passed in the House of Representatives Wednesday night in a 363-64 vote.

Passage in the Senate came after a 33-hour debate on the Pandemic & Allergies Act , bringing the total number of days of debate in Congress to an unprecedented seven hours.

After a House vote Wednesday night in support of the bill, House Speaker Paul Ryan left the chamber to go home for the winter break — perhaps not anticipating the emotional intensity of the debate.

“It’s not a very high bar for sitting down for 34 hours, but I’m not sure that people expected the kind of debate that we had here,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, told CNN’s Dana Bash on Thursday.

In the Senate, it was largely procedural business, with voting on amendments taking up most of the debate time. Two Democrats — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Michael Bennet of Colorado — made a last-ditch attempt to keep the debate going. Their amendments were rejected, however, prompting outrage from both parties.

“We have a bill to pass tonight that would give the administration $550 million to allow our scientists to invest in the next generation of vaccines to protect Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a speech on the Senate floor late Thursday. “This was sent to me by unanimous consent. It’s a very modest amendment. It’s not going to blow the budget out of the water.”

In short order, the amendment was voted down, and the debate finally came to an end. But the intensity of the battle raged on.

“I believe the American people should remember this,” McCarthy said. “We made such a big commitment, and it seems like we’re cutting back on it.”

Leave a Comment