President Obama warned on Tuesday that the U.S. needs more money to fight Ebola and said Congress should approve the request his administration made for more money as a Christmas present to the American people and the world.
"This is an expensive enterprise. That money's running out. We cannot beat Ebola without more funding. If we want more countries to keep stepping up we will have to continue to lead the way. That's why I'm calling on Congress to approve our emergency funding request to fight this disease before they leave for the holidays. It's a good Christmas present to the American people and to the world," Mr. Obama said during a speech at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The White House asked Congress to approve an additional $6.18 billion in emergency spending to improve domestic readiness for the disease and speed up the testing of vaccines. Under the White House's recommendation, $4.64 billion would be used for immediate needs, while $1.54 billion in contingency funding would ensure there are resources available to respond to the outbreak both in the United States and abroad.
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Congress has yet to act on the request. Lawmakers may not give the administration the full $6.2 billion it has asked for. However, House appropriators do expect emergency funding for the Ebola response to be included in a spending bill Congress should pass before leaving at the end of the year.
"This can't get caught up in normal politics," Mr. Obama warned.
The president traveled to the scientific research facility just outside of Washington to celebrate the first published results from first phase of clinical trials for a potential Ebola vaccine, which will now be tested among healthcare workers in West Africa. Mr. Obama hailed the results as "exciting news" because no potential Ebola vaccine has ever made it this far.
But, he said, "it's also a reminder of the importance of government-funded research and our need to keep investing in basic research," he said. "That's part of how science works, you make investments, you pursue knowledge, for knowledge's sake, in part because it turns out that knowledge may turn out useful later and you don't always know when."
He warned of a time when there could be a deadly disease that is airborne, and said at that time the global community will need the infrastructure to spot, isolate and respond to the disease quickly. In order to do so, he said, the world will need to have started making investments years in advance.
"I cannot think of a better example of a better area where we should all agree than passing this emergency funding to fight Ebola and to set up some of the public health infrastructure that we need to deal with potential outbreaks in the future. How do you argue with that? That is not a partisan issue. That is a basic common sense issue that all Americans can agree on," he said.