House approves $750M in Ebola funding held up in Senate panel

The House Armed Services Committee and Appropriations subcommittee on Defense lifted their hold Thursday on $750 million to bolster Ebola response efforts, leaving only one congressional hurdle remaining for the funding.

“The world is facing a severe global health crisis emanating from West Africa. The United States is stepping up to lead the international response to the Ebola outbreak and Congress will ensure that the President’s request is fully and quickly funded,” Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said in a statement.

{mosads}The two panels had approved the Pentagon’s request to transfer $1 billion from its war-funding account to its Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid account, but placed a limit of $50 million until the administration submitted a detailed spending plan.

The Senate Armed Services Committee also placed restrictions on spending.

Frelinghuysen and House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said a Department of Defense (DOD) briefing on Wednesday had satisfied their initial request for information, including setting out a 180-day plan for the Pentagon’s deployment of soldiers.

“While I maintain concerns, particularly regarding the safety and security of our military personnel supporting this mission, DOD has provided us with much of their force protection plan and the other information requested,” McKeon said in a statement Thursday.

“Therefore, I am prepared to release $750 million to DOD. Releasing these funds marks the beginning of the Committee’s oversight of this important mission, not the end,” he added.

James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has withheld approval of the funds in his chamber, saying that it would add demands on a defense budget already stretched thin.

A spokeswoman for Inhofe said Thursday that there is no change in his decision after approval from the other committees.

Staff members of the Senate panel are hoping Inhofe will change his mind.

“We understand that the administration has provided information to answer some questions that Sen. Inhofe had, and that they are hoping he will sign off soon so that they can go forward,” said a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee staff.

The Pentagon plans to send as many as 4,000 U.S. troops to West Africa to help run testing laboratories, build treatment centers, train healthcare workers, and provide assistance with transportation and other logistics.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we will work to assure that our troops are well protected from the Ebola virus as well as any other circumstances that might impact their personal security as they carry out this important mission,” Frelinghuysen said.

Tags James Inhofe Rodney Frelinghuysen
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