U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood said the Biden administration should negotiate with COVID-19 vaccine makers to boost production.
LaHood, R-Peoria, said that's the only way the U.S. will achieve herd immunity this summer.
“Everything that is holding up our economy, and that still has people concerned from a health care standpoint, is not having the vaccine,” LaHood said. “We have the ability to produce it now. Get it produced.”
Pfizer already has pledged to double its COVID vaccine production in the coming weeks while President Biden has set a goal to distribute 600 million vaccine doses by the end of July.
On Monday, LaHood toured McLean County's COVID vaccination clinic at Grossinger Motors Arena in downtown Bloomington. He called it a "model" for other counties to follow.
“I give a lot of credit to the (McLean County) Health Department, for putting together those logistics, doing it in a way people feel comfortable with and having that proper knowledge base and educating people. That’s exactly what you want in a facility and that’s what we have here,” he said.
McLean County has been distributing about 4,000 COVID vaccine doses a week, health department administrator Jessica McKnight has said. About 4% of the county's population has received both vaccine doses. The county has delayed an eligibility expansion because vaccine supplies are too low.
COVID relief bill
Congress is expected to vote on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this week.
LaHood said the bill should focus on vaccine distribution and small business relief, but he said the measure goes far beyond that.
“This is a little like throwing money out of a helicopter,” LaHood said. “Let’s specify where this money is going to do that. There’s money in there for museums and humanities funding, nothing to do with COVID.”
LaHood said he opposes a minimum wage increase and stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants that are part of the massive $1.9 trillion bill.
LaHood also referred to the bill as a "blue state bailout," referring to billions of dollars that would go to California, New York and other states run by Democrats.
On another topic, LaHood said the Biden administration's new immigration proposal should not include what the congressman calls amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
“I’m supportive of raising the threshold on the amount of legal people we bring in, streamlining that process, but on amnesty, on giving illegals the pathway here, I think we’ve got to scrutinize that and not put them above people that are doing it legally,” LaHood said.
Biden has called for an eight-year path to citizenship. His proposal also creates a faster pathway for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
House Republicans have tapped LaHood to lead their fundraising campaign. LaHood said the recent election gives the GOP momentum to try to win back the House next year, after the party trimmed the Democratic majority in the lower chamber.
“What gives me a lot of optimism in winning back the House and why I took this job is you look at our new freshman class of Republicans, 12 women--many of them minorities--we have veterans,” LaHood said. “It’s a the most diverse Republican class we have ever had.”
LaHood noted the freshman GOP class also includes two African Americans.
When asked if the Republican party will try to raise money for primary candidates who could challenge the party's critics of Donald Trump, LaHood said the National Republican Congressional Committee doesn't get involved in primaries.
LaHood’s 18th Congressional District includes parts of Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.
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