In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, U.S. Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) requested explanations for the nation’s COVID-19 testing shortages amid rising omicron variant infection cases.
Specifically, they blasted the Biden administration for a test shortage even after Congress had provided more than $82 billion over the last two years. That money was supposed to go toward improving and expanding test-related capabilities. Thus, the letter was in part meant as accounting, as the senators requested an understanding of the administration’s strategy for testing and taxpayer funding.
“With over $82.6 billion specifically appropriated for testing, and flexibility within the Department to allocate additional funds from COVID-19 supplemental bills or annual appropriations if necessary, it is unclear to us why we are facing such dire circumstances now,” the senators wrote. “It does not appear to be because of lack of funding, but a more fundamental lack of strategy and a failure to anticipate future testing needs by the administration.”
As such, the senators asked for updates on how much funding remains unused if any testing funds were used for other activities, if other funds were used for testing activities and when the administration expects to have tests ready for distribution. They also sought additional information on the White House’s purchase of 500 million rapid tests, meant to be distributed for free to the public, and how that number was determined.
Burr is ranking member of the Senator Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, while Blunt is ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.