Democratic, GOP Senate bargainers reach $10B COVID agreement

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate bargainers have reached agreement on a slimmed-down $10 billion package for countering COVID-19, the top Democratic and Republican negotiators said Monday, but the measure dropped all funding to help nations abroad combat the pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the deal would give the government “the tools we need" to continue battling the disease. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, trumpeted budget savings in the measure that he said meant it “will not cost the American people a single additional dollar."
At least half the measure would have to be used to research and produce therapeutics to treat the disease, according to fact sheets distributed by Schumer and Romney, the two top bargainers.
The money would also be used to buy vaccines and tests. At least $750 million would be used to research new COVID-19 variants and to expand vaccine production, the descriptions said.
The agreement comes with party leaders hoping to move the legislation through Congress this week, before lawmakers leave for a two-week spring recess. It also comes with BA.2, the new omicron variant, expected to spark a fresh increase in U.S. cases. Around 980,000 Americans and over 6 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19.