Democrats are asking the right questions and demanding that Republicans hold hearings and investigate whether the CDC and NIH had appropriate funding levels in the areas necessary to combat Ebola.
In a statement, a group of House Democrats said,
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and the other Democratic Members of the Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education Appropriations Subcommittee in calling for hearings on the funding levels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and related agencies in light of the ongoing public health threat posed by the Ebola virus:
As Francis Collins, head of the NIH, said last week: ‘NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, “Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here.” Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.’
The Appropriations Committee should return to Washington immediately and convene hearings to discuss and debate the issue of funding levels for NIH, CDC and related agencies in light of the public health challenges posed by the Ebola virus. While it is important that the House Homeland Security and Energy & Commerce committees have held hearings, it is not right that the Appropriations committee has not met in accordance with its responsibilities to fund these critical public health agencies.
While Republicans are busy doing their usual blame Obama thing and the media is whipping up needless hysteria over whether or not Ebola will be invading our homes and killing us all, Democrats are asking the important question. How did we get here?
The answer isn’t what Republicans would like you to believe it is. The lackluster Ebola response is not a byproduct of “bad Obama leadership.” Certain simpletons, we like to call these people Republicans, point to the overall funding levels at the CDC and NIH and proclaim that this is all Obama’s fault. Other media simpletons, including a Pinocchio loving grader at the Washington Post, used a similar argument to get Republicans off the hook.
The problem with only looking at overall funding levels is that it misses the point. Over the last few years, the CDC has had billions of dollars taken out of its budget for infectious disease preparedness at the federal, state, and local levels. This means that the CDC started with fewer resources to work with when the Ebola situation started. There is a reason the Congress rushed through an infusion of cash to fight Ebola before they left town. The CDC budget was left short on preparedness.
It isn’t a black and white situation, but the sequester that Republicans love so much has hurt. The focus should be on congressional Republicans, for one simple reason. The president doesn’t make the budget. Obama can make budgetary recommendations, but at the end of the day, as the old saying goes, the House controls the purse strings.
The talk about Obama’s budget is a smokescreen coming from people who don’t want to discuss the real issue. The important question isn’t did the CDC have enough funding. What needs to be investigated is if the CDC was properly funded in the area of preparedness.
House Republicans love to “investigate” any Obama scandal that Fox News can dream up, but it is a safe bet that they won’t investigate the role that their own budgetary choices played in the current situation.