Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, questions Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as she testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Texas Republican sees ACA as tool to combat Ebola

It’s fair to say Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) is not a fan of the White House. In 2011, the far-right Texan suggested Republicans should pursue impeachment against President Obama, not over any high crimes, but because “it would tie things up” in Washington for a while, making governing impossible.
In other words, Burgess isn’t exactly a moderate.
It’s of interest, then, that the Republican congressman now sees part of the Affordable Care Act as a tool that can help fight Ebola. Igor Volsky reported this morning:
“It’s section 4002 in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it’s called the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and this is a self-replenishing fund, at the first of the fiscal year every year,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) explained during an appearance on 660AM’s Mark Davis Show.
“Two billion dollars washes into the Secretary’s offices of Health and Human Services for her to use, do whatever she wishes,” he added, before asking, “But how about we take these $2 billion and we fight this darn disease?”
Obviously, Burgess isn’t approaching this as a fan of “Obamacare.” Rather, he’s saying the ACA system includes a provision called the Prevention Fund, and so long as it exists, perhaps those resources can be used to supplement U.S. efforts to address this virus.
That’s a far cry from an endorsement of the law Burgess has voted to repeal several dozen times, but at a practical level, it’s nevertheless indicative of progress – when a far-right congressional Republican envisions using the Affordable Care Act to help people, rather than demanding the complete annihilation of the law itself, it represents a real shift in posture.
As for the notion that the Prevention Fund is just a $2 billion slush fund for HHS – money that Burgess now wants to see invested in an Ebola response – note that the congressman’s understanding of the relevant provision is mistaken. As Volsky’s report added, the Fund “invests in community and clinical prevention, research, public health infrastructure, immunizations and screenings, tobacco prevention and public health workforce and training.”
To say that the resources are to be used on “whatever” the HHS secretary “wishes” is obviously not the case.
Still, I’m inclined to focus on the positives here. An ACA opponent and fierce White House critic today suggested the Affordable Care Act can help address an Ebola threat. That’s clearing a low bar, but under the circumstances, I’ll take it.