With concern mounting over the possible spread of Ebola in the United States, members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies to help fight the disease within the U.S. and abroad.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday that the administration has not yet decided whether it will need to request additional funds from Congress to combat the Ebola epidemic. Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, are already making plans to open the federal checkbook if necessary, while House Republicans appear to be taking a more cautious approach.
Harkin, who heads the Labor and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, and his staff are already engaging with the administration on what resources will be needed to fight Ebola in the U.S. and in West Africa. Those estimates will provide fodder for broader talks with House Republicans to continue funding the government when Congress returns next month.
“Areas of focus in these discussions on funding for the U.S. Ebola response include the need for resources to expand quarantine stations, train and equip health workers, test potential treatments and vaccines, and expand our response in West Africa,” a Harkin aide said.
In addition to existing funding for the CDC, USAID, the Defense Department, and other agencies working to combat Ebola, Congress in September approved an additional $88 million to help the effort. That funding, which was also supported by House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., was included in the continuing resolution which easily passed both chambers before members left town to campaign.
Earlier this month, Congress also gave the Defense Department its approval to transfer $750 million in funding to help combat the Ebola outbreak.
Harkin has said he hopes to “build on” that funding in the coming discussions about an omnibus spending bill, which appropriators are working to pass before a Dec. 11 deadline. Harkin called the $88 million measure, which has helped to fund the CDC’s work in West Africa and in the U.S. as well as clinical trials for drugs and vaccines, “a critical first step.” But, he added, “we must do more.”