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Dem Congressman: Ebola Outbreak Exposes GOP Spending Cuts

WASHINGTON – Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), a member of the House Budget Committee, said education is the best way for the federal government to respond to the Ebola outbreak, rather than reduce the number of U.S. visas granted to citizens of West Africa nations.

Cárdenas also said the Ebola crisis demonstrates that reducing spending is the wrong approach.

“I think the best response is education. We have the best system of preventative measures in the world but yet at the same time we need to educate the communities, so I think it’s important that we not act in an alarmed fashion but just have responsible, methodical education,” said Cárdenas at the Noche de Gala for the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts on Wednesday night.

“It’s my understanding that when it comes to the actual hospitals and facilities that will have to receive individuals that may have Ebola, that we’re doing well there but again until we see them being challenged, we’ll have yet to see if they’re actually truly ready – but we’re getting strong assurances that they are, but the best thing is education,” Cárdenas also said.

U.S. health officials estimated on Thursday that the Liberian man hospitalized for Ebola in Texas had contact with as many as 100 people. The man was reportedly visiting the U.S. on a tourist visa. Cárdenas was asked if the U.S. should temporarily stop issuing visas to West African nations affected by Ebola.

“Again, that would be reacting in an alarmed fashion. I think that what we ought to do is education domestically and also education abroad and make sure that we have the kind of communication and the honesty with us and other governments that we need to be making sure that they understand the seriousness of it, and then respond after we find out if they are acting responsibly,” Cárdenas responded. “Then, we can go ahead and be more trusting, but otherwise, then we will take action just based on facts, not based on hyperbole, not based on being upset or reactionary.”

President Obama has requested $1 billion to combat the Ebola outbreak. The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate recently approved $50 million. When asked how he would like to see the approved funds used, Cárdenas criticized Republicans for supporting spending reductions.

“These kinds of situations expose the fact that we’ve been cutting way too much in areas that aren’t as visible and it’s until things like this happen that we start to realize that we shouldn’t have cut those things, and I blame that a lot on my Republican colleagues,” he said.

“They constantly just grind down and grind down and grind down to make it look like we can’t move forward unless we make these cuts and $50 million here, $500 million there to a county our size and a country that most of the world is depending on to show them how to get things done right – it’s those kinds of cuts that start to expose themselves when we have situations like this,” he added.

Cárdenas was a featured speaker at the Noche de Gala, sponsored by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. The organization honored Grammy Award winner Juanes and actresses Emily Rios and Aimee Garcia, as well as actors Jesse Garcia and Benito Martinez. Cárdenas said the Hispanic community is currently underrepresented in front of the camera and behind the camera.

“Every industry has its hiccups, every industry has things that they can improve on, but when you talk about a regulated industry like the media industry that’s where the government can in fact do more and be more proactive,” Cárdenas said.

“I think the government should demand from the private industry that’s regulated to actually show their diversity numbers and show that they actually have an effort to try to get good, qualified individuals to be able to move into positions where they can be promoted and they can represent. With all due respect, that at the end of the day is good business.”

During his speech at the event, Cárdenas, whose district is in the San Fernando Valley, told the audience his daughter should not have to change her last name if she wants to work in the entertainment industry.

“I would respect that if that’s her choice, but wow,” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “What a painful moment, what a painful reality.”

Musician and philanthropist Juanes, who received the Raul Julia Award for Excellence at the event, said combating violence is one of the greatest challenges facing Colombia, where he was born.

“Violence is everywhere in a different way,” said Juanes, who started the Fundaciόn Mi Sangre (My Blood Foundation) to assist victims of land mines.

Juanes said he is most concerned about the pending peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and as a Colombian I feel positive about it,” he said. “Colombia definitely deserves that, historically.”