A week before the Presidential Inauguration, then President-elect Biden’s team released the incoming administration’s $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan designed to continue to guide the country through the ongoing medical and economic challenges of the global pandemic. On February 27, 2021, the House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and while President Biden expressed a strong desire for a collaborative effort to pass the bill on a bipartisan basis, the bill ultimately passed the House by a vote of 219–212 on February 27. All but two Democrats voted for the bill and all Republicans voted against.
Because of that, Democrat leadership in the Senate was prepared to use the budget reconciliation process to pass the American Rescue Plan and get it on President Biden’s desk for his signature and enactment. Via budget reconciliation, Congress can use expedited parliamentary procedures (with limits on the scope of provisions) to consider spending, revenue, and debt-limit laws set by an annual resolution. More importantly, and in this current environment, this process allows the Senate to enact legislation with a simple majority vote of 50 plus 1.
With full passage within reach, committees drafted the policies to be advanced through the reconciliation process. The Senate amended the House-passed provisions, and President Biden and his administration reconsidered its priorities to determine which measures could be passed through reconciliation and which measures required regular order. Some of the most popular items of direct stimulus checks and extended unemployment aid qualified for the reconciliation process. This modified version passed the Senate on March 6 by a vote of 50–49.
Amongst the provision in the ARP, specifically to the President’s request for $160 billion in direct pandemic medical relief, more than half — $83 billion — will be used to increase development and access to vaccines, testing, and therapeutics, along with critical supplies.
The American Rescue Plan provides direct COVID relief funding in the following ways:
$15.5 billion for Community Vaccination Clinics and Mobile Vaccination Units.
$4.5 billion to accelerate manufacturing and supply chain, vaccine awareness campaign, and increase the federal portion of Medicaid’s state assistance percentage to vaccinate Medicaid recipients.
$46.5 billion to procure and administer regular screening tests.
$3.5 billion to Invest in U.S. laboratory capacity for diagnostic and screening tests.
Domestic Manufacturing Capacity and Supply Chain
$4 billion to build and equip two state-of-the art facilities.
$1 billion to create a stockpile of essential raw materials and supplies for vaccines.
$3 billion to expand domestic manufacturing capacity for additional supplies.
$2 billion for onshore manufacturing of test kits and related supplies.
$2 billion for Biomedical Advanced Research and Development (BARDA), purchase and production.
$1 billion for research on treatments for long-term health impacts of COVID-19 “long haulers.”
Other Provisions Include:
$340 million for genomic sequencing.
$8 billion to expand public health workforce.
$30 billion funding for the Disaster Relief Fund (for FEMA use).
$11 billion towards the global response by replenishing health and humanitarian assistance ($5.7 billion); the Support Global Fund ($1.5 billion); and to fulfill commitments to the WHO, G-7, and G-20 ($3.8 billion).
With Democrats in control of both houses, such a wide-ranging proposal to address and confront the many fronts afflicted by this ongoing medical and economic emergency at home and abroad, the American Rescue Plan is the opening salvo in a COVID-19 relief effort that proved to be President Biden's first major legislative win.
Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government & External Affairs Specialist. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to gvillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.