WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee are preparing a $3 billion bipartisan bill to prepare for the next global health crisis, congressional aides said on Friday, trying again to pass a pandemic plan after similar efforts stalled last year.
Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch, the Democratic chairman and top Republican on the foreign relations panel, will introduce their International Preparedness Pandemic and COVID-19 Response Act of 2021 as soon as Monday.
The 113-page bill, seen by Reuters, stems from monthslong negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, a contrast with bitter partisan debate during the coronavirus crisis.
A similar bill introduced last year did not become law.
Aides said the senators had worked with President Joe Biden’s administration on the legislation. A global health bill is also working its way through the House of Representatives, which like the Senate is narrowly controlled by Biden’s fellow Democrats.
The Senate measure would authorize $3 billion over five years for prevention and preparedness, addressing gaps in the global health system by increasing vaccine production and distribution and shoring up the U.S. pandemic defense system.
The bill encourages international cooperation and work with international organizations. It advocates for reforms at the World Health Organization, accused by some of former President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the outbreak. The WHO denies this.
It sets goals such as ensuring at least 60% of the world’s population is vaccinated by the first half of 2022.
The bill notes “it is in the security and economic interests of the United States” to assist developing countries’ recovery from the pandemic, which has killed millions of people and cratered economies around the world.
It seeks a better international early warning system for potential health crises. And it requires that intelligence agencies update congressional committees on risks posed to the United States by pathogens that could cause future pandemics.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)