About a month ago, The Hill reported that House Republicans had slashed President Obama’s funding request for combating the Ebola outbreak. Soon after, however, the report started looking dubious, and concerns faded over whether GOP lawmakers would balk at the Ebola response.
A month later, however, the congressional developments are not in dispute. Republicans aren’t cutting the White House’s funding request, but in the face of an international crisis, GOP lawmakers have held up some of the resources officials say they’ll need.
Congress has held up most of the Defense Department’s request to spend up to $1 billion to combat the Ebola outbreak, with some lawmakers holding back funds until the administration provides more information on its strategy.Lawmakers on key committees have allowed the administration to spend only a portion of the funds until officials provide detailed responses about how they plan to protect the U.S. military from being infected and their longer-term strategy, congressional aides said.
Congress, obviously, is not in session – lawmakers gave themselves a 54-day break – but under the established appropriations process, the legislative branch can approve spending requests if they’re endorsed by the top members of each relevant committee from both parties.
This week, the House initially only approved $50 million, but members upped that total to $750 million after a detailed Capitol Hill briefing from Obama administration officials.
That’s far short of the $1 billion requested, but it will advance U.S. efforts. According to the AP, the funding will “cover a six-month mission that would include airlifting personnel, medical supplies, protective suits and equipment such as tents to house Ebola victims and isolate people exposed to the virus.”
Developments in the Senate have been trickier.
As of late yesterday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, made a point to emphasize that he had not yet signed off on the funding, though he relented this morning.
“After careful consideration, I believe that the outbreak has reached a point that the only organization in the world able to provide the capabilities and speed necessary to respond to this crisis is the U.S. military,” Inhofe said in a statement.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), however, took the lead in urging the relevant members to balk at the administration’s request – he said it “focuses” too much “on Africa.”
It “focuses on Africa, and largely ignores our own borders.” Those are the words Republican Senator David Vitter used this week, in a letter objecting to President Obama’s plan for fighting the Ebola epidemic.I don’t think it’s the first time an Administration critic has used such a description. It certainly won’t be the last. And that’s troubling, because Africa is precisely where the focus should be.
Congress hasn’t approved all of the resources requested by the Pentagon, but as it turns out, at least lawmakers didn’t listen to Vitter, either.