Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A healthcare worker assists a Covid-19 patient

A medical worker treats an intubated Covid-19 patient in the ICU at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut on January 18, 2022. (Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

As Covid Aid Languishes, Congress Moves Ahead With Massive Corporate Subsidies

Experts have warned that the lack of new Covid-19 funding "endangers the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world and risks the emergence of new and more deadly virus variants."

Jake Johnson

On a bipartisan basis, Congress is moving ahead with legislation packed with tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for profitable U.S. tech corporations while a smaller but desperately needed coronavirus aid measure languishes, potentially compromising the Biden administration's ability to purchase next-generation vaccines and hampering the global pandemic fight.

Last week, the Senate voted on a range of nonbinding motions related to the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which has been billed as an effort to boost U.S. manufacturing and technological development to compete with China.

"At the risk of stating the obvious: Congress should not be cutting corporate taxes."

Different versions of the bill have passed the House and Senate, and the two chambers are currently working to reconcile the bills and iron out specific policy disputes in a conference committee.

Where most congressional lawmakers appear to have found common ground, though, is in the realm of corporate subsidies. In its current form, the USICA contains roughly $52 billion in subsidies for the nation's microchip industry—money that would flow to companies such as Intel.

As Common Dreams reported last week, senators from both parties overwhelmingly voted down Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) motion aiming to ensure that the subsidies come with conditions, including one preventing the federal funds from benefiting union-busting companies.

Senators also tanked a Sanders motion recommending that lawmakers remove from the USICA a $10 billion provision that's likely to benefit billionaire Jeff Bezos' space flight company.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that nearly every Senate Democrat voted with Republicans to "restore a tax cut that benefits corporate America" as part of the USICA. Sanders was one of five senators who voted against the motion, which was sponsored by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

If included in the final legislation, the tax cut—ostensibly designed to incentivize research and development—would cost the federal government nearly $130 billion over a four-year period. Intel, Amazon, and other large corporations and business groups lobbied hard for the tax break, The Lever reported earlier this month.

"At the risk of stating the obvious: Congress should not be cutting corporate taxes," Amy Hanauer, director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), said in response to last week's vote. "Corporate tax collections are much too low."

Meanwhile, despite increasingly dire warnings from public health experts, Congress has failed to approve additional coronavirus relief as Republicans obstruct and President Joe Biden and his Democratic colleagues in Congress prioritize military aid to Ukraine.

The Biden administration has requested $22 billion in coronavirus funding to protect the U.S. against a potentially massive fall and winter surge and to aid the global pandemic response, which rich nations have undermined by hoarding vaccine doses and technology.

The $5 billion in global coronavirus aid that Biden has pushed for represents a fraction of the subsidies that would flow to U.S. corporations under the USICA.

Last month, Republican and Democratic senators reached a tentative deal on a $10 billion coronavirus aid package that would completely exclude global coronavirus aid, sparking outrage among public health campaigners.

That deal has failed to advance, however, as Republicans demand a vote to preserve Title 42, a Trump-era migrant expulsion order that rights groups have denounced as both immoral and unlawful.

The failure to swiftly approve new coronavirus aid could have massive consequences for the U.S. response to Covid-19 as well as the global pandemic fight.

Citing an unnamed senior Biden administration official, CNBC reported Monday that "the U.S. will have to limit the next generation of Covid vaccines this fall to individuals at the highest risk of getting seriously sick from the virus if Congress fails to approve funding to purchase the new shots."

On Tuesday, more than a dozen Nobel laureates and former heads of state wrote in a letter to Biden that global Covid-19 funding is "mission-critical" in the fight against the pandemic, which has killed an estimated 15 million people worldwide.

"The lack of funding endangers the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world," the letter warned, "and risks the emergence of new and more deadly virus variants that will prolong the pandemic."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

To 'Step Back From the Edge of Recession,' UN Urges Central Banks to Stop Rate Hikes

The UNCTAD chief warns that "the current course of action is hurting the most vulnerable, especially in developing countries, and risks tipping the world into a global recession."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Their Greed Knows No Bounds': Analysis Shows Ongoing Price Gouging by Oil Giants

"Big Oil is boasting record profits and dragging their feet to pass any lower costs onto consumers in order to keep padding investors' pockets," said Accountable.US.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Doing This for My Son': UK Climate Activist Gives Interview While Handcuffed, Hauled Off by Cops

"The government's inaction on climate change is a death sentence to us all," the Just Stop Oil protester said.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Dr. Oz Is a Puppy Killer': Fetterman Campaign Responds to Reporting on Animal Testing

"This is who Dr. Oz is: unconscionable and a danger to others," said Fetterman's wife, activist Gisele Barreto Fetterman.

Julia Conley ·

'We Must Not Stand By': Amnesty Urges State Leaders to Ban Guns Near Polling Places

"Governors and secretaries of state must do everything in their power to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers this November."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo