Some Red States Welcome Increased Federal Role In Biden Vaccine Rollout

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 31: Arkansas Gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson speaks during the Republican campaign rally at Sues Kitchen in Jonesboro, Ark., on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With the country chomping at the bit for the COVID-19 vaccine, at least one red state governor is pushing the GOP to cut a deal with the Biden administration for more vaccine funding.

Arkanas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), also head of the National Governor’s Association, said he was in favor of another federal aid package when asked about it on CNN Thursday.

“In terms of the vaccinations, yes, We want federal help in terms of vaccine administration,” Hutchinson said. “We’re in a good position, but we can do better and that assistance will be helpful.”

Hutchinson’s remarks signal support for another bill — a different position from many Senate Republicans, who have backed away from Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. Eight Republican senators have suggested that they may vote for the legislation, but that the size of the bill should be pared down to garner their support.

Some Senate Republicans have pushed to cut the amount of vaccine funding in the bill from $20 billion, saying that last month’s $8.75 billion allocated for the effort covered a chunk of what was needed.

Hutchinson struck a different note in his remarks, saying that the legislation is not just necessary for the vaccination campaign, but is “also for our schools, for our small businesses, and for those hurting in the unemployment line.”

In addition to more funds for the vaccine distribution effort, the Biden plan includes $50 billion for testing. The proposal would also create a 100,000-person public health job corps to both supplement the country’s COVID-19 response while expanding public health for the longer term.

“We need Congress to provide money for additional vaccination sites,” Andy Slavitt, a Biden senior adviser on the COVID-19 response, said Wednesday.

He added that “in order to get all Americans vaccinated we need Congress to provide funds for vaccination.”

Since last week’s inauguration, the administration has touted the federal government’s ability to play an overarching, organizing role in the vaccine rollout — a marked contrast from the Trump administration’s strategy of leaving the rollout to the states.

Arguably the most visible example of this will be the deployment over the next month of 100 vaccination sites managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard. The Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that it will deploy military units to support FEMA’s vaccination sites.

Several GOP-run states have requested FEMA aid for vaccinations since President Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 21 that ordered the agency to begin building vaccination sites and “fill resource gaps.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who has shifted from his early-pandemic period of denying the severity of the virus, requested FEMA assistance for the vaccine campaign in his state.

FEMA announced on Wednesday that it would send 66 employees to help with vaccinations in the state. FEMA also said on Thursday that it had set up vaccination sites in Texas, Nevada, and Washington.

In Idaho, Republican state legislators seeking to overturn the state’s emergency declaration for COVID-19 have run into pushback from Gov. Brad Little (R) in part because it would prevent the state from accessing FEMA funds for vaccinations.

“We are in the final lap of the pandemic fight and the finish line is close. We are so close to returning to normal. But all that success is threatened by the action taking place in the Legislature right now,” Little said.

But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) injected a dose of insanity into the discussion, inveighing last week against the prospect of “FEMA camps.”

“We don’t need more infrastructure,” DeSantis said, rejecting the need for more federal aid. “Let’s just get more doses.”

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