White House presses GOP for nearly $2B to fight Zika virus

Getty Images

The Obama administration on Monday redoubled its call for nearly $2 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus, rejecting the GOP’s idea the government should use leftover Ebola money to fight the new virus.

President Obama’s budget chief, Shaun DonovanShaun DonovanOvernight Energy: Coal industry group backs Trump Senators urge White House to speed cyber policy updates Overnight Healthcare: White House dips into Ebola funding for Zika MORE, told House Republicans in a letter that federal health and security officials still have big plans for the millions of dollars slated to fight Ebola, which he said is “still a threat.”

He warned that if Ebola funding is reshuffled into a new account to fight Zika, it would “put this nation at risk” for another public health crisis. And he said the existing Ebola fund was “always intended to be spent over multiple years.”

“Despite progress, our work to combat Ebola and establish capacity to prevent future public health crises is not complete,” Donovan wrote to the House Appropriations Committee.

The White House told Republicans earlier this month it wanted $1.8 billion in new funds to fight the rapidly spreading mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects across Central and South America.

But House Republicans, led by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), told the Obama administration last week they did not support the request because more than $1 billion was leftover in the nation’s Ebola response.

Donovan, the head of the Office of Managment and Budget, offered a rebuttal Monday, arguing the remaining funds were crucial to shoring up the public health infrastructure in the U.S. and globally to prevent the spread of other potentially deadly outbreaks like Ebola, which killed more than 11,000 people.

Donovan’s letter arrived the same day the White House officially submitted its emergency funding request, clocking in at $1.9 billion — about $100 million more than officials had previously said.

The vast majority of the funding, about $1.5 billion, would go to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The funding would be split among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research, development and prevention, as well as care through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

A total of $300 million would help “diagnose, prevent, and treat” the virus, and another $130 million would be spent on creating vaccines.

In that 25-page document, the administration also asked for the power to dip into the State Department’s Ebola funding pot if needed to fight the Zika virus, though it made clear that health officials sought mostly new funding. It would also allow the State Department to be reimbursed for any funds spent on the Zika virus.

The president’s budget proposal calls for $335 million in new funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and $41 million for the State Department.