White House begins talks with Congress on new Ebola funding

White House begins talks with Congress on new Ebola funding
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The White House has held preliminary discussions with the Senate about a new funding request to fight Ebola, according to a pair of congressional sources.

Any request would come on top of hundreds of millions of dollars already allocated for the fight against the deadly virus, and would trigger a battle with congressional Republicans over the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) announced Monday her full panel would meet to discuss the Ebola crisis on Nov. 6, two days after the midterm elections.

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The administration has come under fire over its handling of the disease, and Obama on Friday appointed Democratic strategist Ron Klain to coordinate the federal government’s response.

Lawmakers in both parties have been pressing Obama to agree to impose a travel ban on the three West African countries, where the Ebola outbreak is concentrated.

Obama and his health advisers have resisted the move, arguing it would actually increase the danger posed by the virus by making it harder to send medical supplies into the affected countries. They have also argued individuals seeking to enter the U.S. would be more likely to lie during screening procedures.

The request for more money would open a new battle with Congress in the Ebola fight.

In a signal the White House might be readying an additional funding request, Obama’s budget director Shaun Donovan has participated in three of the president’s recent meetings on Ebola.

Katie Beirne Fallon, the director of the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, has participated in the last two of those meetings.

On Thursday, the president called Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerGOP rushes to vote without knowing full impact of healthcare plan Dem senator to reintroduce ‘buy American’ legislation GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes MORE (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (D-Nev.) to discuss the Ebola crisis.

A House Republican aide said that, if the administration was preparing an additional request, it had not yet been shared with them.

“We’ve heard a lot of interest from Congress in terms of dedicating resources to solving this problem and the urgency of it,” Schultz said.

Separately, a White House official told Bloomberg News the administration had determined that it will ask for more funding, without specifying whether it would be a request for emergency spending or a reallocation of the Pentagon budget.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Monday it “wouldn’t surprise” him if conversations about Ebola funding had taken place.

“We’re always in touch with members of Congress, especially on an issue like this, but I don’t have specifics,” Schultz said.

But the White House spokesman said he assumed there would be “widespread support” if the administration were to send a funding request to lawmakers.

Lawmakers earlier this month approved the Pentagon’s request to reallocate $750 million in unallocated war funds to help fight the disease. 

That was in addition to $263 million already committed to fighting Ebola, including a $88 million emergency request passed as part of the continuing resolution, which funds the government through Dec. 11. 

— This story was last updated at 5:21 p.m.