Vitter: Block Ebola funds until Obama details plan

Sen. David VitterDavid VitterFed chairwoman blasts Trump on debt Senate campaign posts private conversation on Facebook Rand Paul endorses in La. Senate race MORE (R-La.) is urging his colleagues to block any additional funding to combat Ebola until the Obama administration more clearly details its plans to stop the deadly outbreak.

In a letter Wednesday to the leaders of two congressional panels, Vitter questioned the administration’s request to shift $1 billion in funds toward Ebola prevention.

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“I strongly support addressing this crisis with the full force of the government to help bring the epidemic under control,” he wrote. “However, I ask you to oppose fully allowing the additional $1 billion in reprogramming requests until previously requested additional information is available for members of Congress to be fully briefed."

The letter was addressed to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), as well as Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Vitter’s letter comes as the Obama administration is stepping up efforts to screen air travelers from West Africa and deploy up to 3,000 military personnel to Africa to help control the outbreak.

But Vitter said more should be done, suggesting the administration should bar foreign nationals from countries dealing with Ebola from entering the U.S.

“Instead of using powers given to him, the President is requesting $1 billion for a plan that has not been presented to members of Congress, focuses on Africa, and largely ignores our own borders,” he wrote.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health have said isolating West Africa could make the situation worse. The first patient diagnosed with the deadly disease in the U.S. died Wednesday. Thomas Eric Duncan had arrived in the U.S. from Liberia before he began showing symptoms.

Appropriators have only approved $50 million of the $1 billion the administration wants to shift to anti-Ebola efforts, Vitter noted. That’s in addition to separate funding Congress has approved, including $88 million in a recent short-term spending bill that expires in December.

If the U.S. uses up all of the appropriated funds before Congress returns to Capitol Hill in mid-November, Vitter asked his Senate colleagues not to approve any more of the request. 

“An authorization of $1 billion dollars should not be done behind closed doors or without full briefings being made available to members,” he wrote.

Vitter is not the only lawmaker who has questioned the administration’s response plan. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), as well as Inhofe, have all called on the administration to present additional details to Congress.