Obama: Ebola funding a 'good Christmas present'

President Obama called on Congress to approve roughly $6 billion in emergency funding for the Ebola response before lawmakers depart for the Christmas holiday.

"We cannot beat Ebola without more funding," he said Tuesday during a speech at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"It's a good Christmas present to the American people and to the world … We need to protect the American people and we need to show the world how America leads." 

The White House is facing a challenge to get the funding approved in the final weeks of the legislative session.

While most of the package appears to have bipartisan support, it is possible that $1.5 billion in contingency funding could draw opposition from fiscal conservatives.

The total $6.18 billion requested would be spent to bolster the response to Ebola in West Africa and to prepare the U.S. health system for isolated cases that might arrive here.

Obama delivered his address following a tour of the NIH, where an Ebola vaccine is undergoing tests. Earlier in the day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated 35 hospitals around the country as special Ebola treatment centers.

The day was orchestrated to put Ebola policy back in the headlines and to pressure lawmakers to turn their attention to the funding request as soon as possible.

Obama appealed to critics' sense of U.S. leadership around the world, arguing that other global players would not have made the same investment in fighting Ebola if the United States had not made commitments first.

"American leadership matters every time," Obama said. "We set the tone and we set the agenda. This disease is not just a test of our health system. It is a test of our character as a nation. It asks us who we are as Americans."