During a Senate health committee meeting, Romney, R-Utah, expressed “surprise” that the White House reallocated $10 billion to fund the purchase of additional vaccines, therapeutics and monoclonal antibodies on June 8, after it had previously told lawmakers it did not have the funding to purchase such items.
“Washington operates on a relationship of trust between the respective parties,” Romney said. “For the administration to provide information to us that was patently false is something which dramatically attacks that trust which I have, members of my party have, members of both parties have.”
The White House had asked Congress for $22.5 billion in emergency relief after saying for months it would be unable to purchase new vaccines and antiviral pills without the additional funding.
Romney, who helped negotiate a $10 billion funding package, noted that the White House did not reallocate the funds over several months that had passed since lawmakers asked the administration to provide an accounting for how prior COVID-19 relief money had been spent and how the requested money had been spent in March.
“I hope that there is an appreciation for the administration to say that they could not purchase these things and then, after several months, divert some funds and then purchase them is unacceptable and makes our ability to work together and have confidence in what we’re being told very much shaken to the core,” he said.
“This has been the most well-orchestrated event that I’ve seen in the 28 years that I’ve been here,” he said. “This was designed to pressure Republicans to open a checkbook, sign the check and let the administration fill in the balance.”
White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said in a statement that the White House engaged in “countless” briefings and conference calls in addition to providing hundreds of pages of funding documents to lawmakers.
“We’ve also been crystal clear about the consequences of a lack of funding … including the very real possibility that we would have to re-evaluate the planned uses of existing funds,” said Munoz.