Key Republican questions NIH on Ebola vaccine funding

A key Republican in charge of congressional funding for the National Institutes of Health is questioning whether budget cuts are really preventing the agency from developing an Ebola vaccine.

"I read with much curiosity your statement about an Ebola vaccine," Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the chairman of the congressional panel that oversees health funding, wrote in a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins.

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Collins last week told the left-leaning Huffington Post that if the NIH hadn't experienced a 10-year slide in research support, "we probably would have had a vaccine in time" for the current Ebola crisis. 

His comments have met with fire on the right, where conservatives have argued budget cuts are not responsible for the lack of an Ebola vaccine.

Kingston offered a series of pointed questions to Collins, including a request for a list of research proposals over the last 10 years for an Ebola vaccine that weren’t funded because of a lack of money.

He also asked for details regarding ongoing Ebola vaccine research and its funding, and questioned whether any of the $10 billion in NIH funding from the 2009 stimulus were put toward vaccine development.

Kingston also asked if the NIH would have sufficient funds if Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathewss Burwell does not apply an internal funding reduction to the agency. 

Democrats have sought to make GOP budget cuts an issue in the political fight surrounding Ebola, while Republicans have intensely criticized the Obama administration's response.

On Kingston’s subcommittee, Democrats have repeatedly asked him to convene the panel for an immediate hearing this month to examine funding, but he has not responded as of last week.