U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the recent distribution of the first COVID-19 vaccines and celebrated that 100 million Americans are expected to be vaccinated by March 2021. Thune highlighted the significant progress that has been made, but he noted that Congress’s work toward providing additional COVID-19 relief is not over. He encouraged his Democrat colleagues to join Republicans to pass a bipartisan relief bill for the American people before Christmas.
Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, yesterday was a hopeful day, as the first COVID vaccines in the U.S. were distributed to health care workers on the front lines of the COVID battle.
“And later this week the FDA will hold a meeting on an emergency use authorization for Moderna’s COVID vaccine – meaning that we could have a second coronavirus vaccine authorized before Christmas.
“If all goes well, we expect to have 100 million Americans vaccinated by March.
“That’s a pretty amazing statistic when you consider that just a year ago we didn’t even know about this virus.
“And it’s a tribute to the innovative power of the private sector – and the efforts of Congress and the Trump administration to expedite vaccine development.
“It’s been a long, hard year, but the light at the end of the tunnel is coming.
“But while yesterday was an encouraging day, we have more work to do on the COVID front.
“First, we all need to keep following the CDC’s recommendations.
“The rollout of Pfizer’s vaccine is wonderful news, but cases in the U.S. are still surging.
“Until we can get a lot more people vaccinated, we need to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus and avoid overwhelming our hospitals.
“Second, we need to pass another COVID bill here in Congress to provide additional funding for vaccines and deliver other urgently needed relief to our fellow Americans.
“Republicans, of course, have been trying to pass additional COVID legislation for months.
“And I’m encouraged that, in the past few weeks, a number of Democrats have stepped forward to work with Republicans to develop bipartisan legislation.
“Just yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators released legislation along the lines of what the majority leader has advocated – targeted relief that focuses on our most critical needs and the areas where Republicans and Democrats agree.
“This includes important COVID priorities like vaccine funding, money for schools, and help for the hardest-hit small businesses.
“Republicans’ and Democrats’ ideal COVID bills might look very different, but there are a number of things that all of us agree need to be addressed.
“And we should – we must – pass legislation to take care of those priorities.
“I’m thinking about vaccine distribution especially.
“We’ve been blessed with not one but two viable vaccines, with more on the horizon.
“We can’t afford to undermine this success by failing to provide the resources necessary for widespread distribution.
“Mr. President, the ball is in the Senate Democrat leader and Speaker Pelosi’s court.
“We have bipartisan support for targeted relief to address our most critical priorities.
“The Democrat leader in the House noted on Sunday that, and I quote, “I think we need to get an agreement, and we need to get this bill passed. ... [N]obody ever gets everything they want. And … it's critically important that we deal with these very, very important objectives even if we don't get on either side everything we want.”
“Meanwhile, the Democrat whip on the Senate side was part of the bipartisan group that has suggested dropping the most controversial aspects and focusing on what we agree on.
“So the answer really lies with Speaker Pelosi and the Democrat leader here in the Senate.
“Are they going to heed the bipartisan calls to deliver critical coronavirus funding?
“Or are they going to continue to block relief for Americans?
“Mr. President, around our country, Americans are struggling under the worst wave of the virus to date.
“They need more help – and, above all, they need the vaccinations that will help bring this pandemic to an end.
“We can pass additional relief legislation this week.
“To quote the majority leader, let’s get this done.”