Threat of Walking Dead Scare Funding for Ebola Epidemic Out of Congress

UPDATED: For reasons which defy explanation, Republican Senators held up requests from the White House and Department of Defense to fight the spread of the Ebola virus. There was a letter circulating on the Hill, penned by David Vitter (R-LA), which asked his colleagues to “oppose fully allowing the additional $1 billion in reprogramming requests.”

Point of order, Senator Vitter, Congress authorized transfer of $750 MILLION to mobilize the U.S. response to the virus ravaging West Africa. But let’s not quibbled over a measly quarter-billion dollars, when all that’s at stake is stopping an epidemic that has (according to the World Health Organization) a 50/50 shot at killing anyone who becomes infected. Normally, “the potential for widespread EVD infections is considered low, as the disease is only spread by direct contact with the secretions from someone who is showing signs of infection,” but failing to contain this outbreak now, could trigger a worldwide pandemic.

There should be no doubt left in anyone’s mind that Republicans in the United States Congress present a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of this country; from standing in the way of expanding health care coverage for millions of Americans through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) placing a “hold” on any logistical planning at the Department of Defense to respond to this threat.

He was concerned this “would add demands on a defense budget already stretched thin.” Not containing the spread of this virus poses “catastrophic” effects on the world economy — estimates are the economic impact could top $32 billion by the end of next year. But James seemed to think he knows best — and remained deaf to arguments from both the House Armed Services Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee. As a Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Senator Inhofe’s “hold” was, for the time being, law.

The rate of infection is growing, experts say, “exponentially.” President Obama made the case for a coordinated world response at the United Nations: “… the slope of the curve, how fast we can arrest the spread of this disease, how quickly we can contain it is within our control.  And if we move fast, even if imperfectly, then that could mean the difference between 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 deaths versus hundreds of thousands or even a million deaths.”

UPDATE: Senator Inhofe, the lone holdout said Friday “I believe 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.” Several days ago, Inhofe evidently considered them incompetent and “raised numerous concerns” about the mission. So Pentagon officials set aside what they were doing, to reassure the Senator that they did indeed have “a coherent strategy,” and offered him operational “details on how our men and women in uniform would be protected.”

Because clearly — without James Inhofe grandstanding for the cameras, military leaders would have simply sent them into harm’s way, armed with a box of Kleenex. After meeting with military brass, the senior Senator from Oklahoma lifted his hold and efforts to combat the spread of Ebola once again began moving with all possible speed. This is the current Republican strategy for safeguarding democracy: drag your feet until you get your 24 news cycle during an election year.

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