Golden, Coalition of 17 House Democrats, Push Pelosi, Schumer to Take Immediate Action on Vaccine Funding

February 4, 2021
Press Release
Members of Blue Dog Coalition to Congressional leaders: “why… 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.”

BloombergNBC: Group of Democrats Want Vaccine Funds Before Biden Stimulus

WASHINGTON — With a COVID-19 relief bill unlikely to be signed into law for weeks or months, Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) and a group of 17 of his colleagues pressed congressional leaders to quickly hold a vote on funding for vaccine distribution and development. The lawmakers belong to the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 18 pragmatic Democrats representing districts across the country.

The White House and members of Congress of both parties have supported equivalent proposals to ramp up nationwide COVID-19 vaccination production and distribution. As the members point out in their letter, legislation containing such a proposal could be passed into law quickly with bipartisan support, weeks or perhaps months earlier than is likely to occur if they are passed as part of a much larger bill. 

“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,” wrote the lawmakers. “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.”

In objection to Congress’ failure to pass the urgent vaccine funding before moving to the lengthy budget reconciliation process party leaders have chosen to use to advance a larger COVID-19 relief package, Golden voted against the procedural vote to begin budget reconciliation yesterday. Golden’s concerns are echoed in the Blue Dogs’ letter to Pelosi and Schumer. 

“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,” the coalition wrote in their letter.

Text of the letter can be found below:

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 fasterthan 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. 

Sincerely,