Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has asked leaders on the Armed Services and Appropriations committees to approve no more funds for anti-Ebola efforts until the Obama administration presents a comprehensive plan to Congress on combatting the disease.
Vitter stressed in the letter to the chairmen and ranking members that he “strongly” supports “addressing this crisis with the full force of the government to help bring the epidemic under control.”
“However, I ask you to oppose fully allowing the additional $1 billion in reprogramming requests until previously requested additional information is available for members of Congress to be fully briefed,” he wrote.
More than $263 million has been committed to the anti-Ebola effort, and Vitter said he understands the need “to act quickly to avoid a potential global health security crisis.”
“Regretfully, the government is not exercising its ongoing powers of implementing its authority under federal immigration law to bar the entry of a foreign national on specific health-related grounds,” the senator said. “The president and the government agencies possess vast authorities that could help safeguard American citizens and our homeland at our border and entry points.”
That includes using a “do not board” list and letting airlines refuse to carry passengers deemed a direct health threat.
“I believe there is sufficient evidence that passengers coming from these countries would qualify as a direct threat given their potential for carrying the disease. Instead of using powers given to him, the President is requesting $1 billion for a plan that has not been presented to members of Congress, focuses on Africa, and largely ignores our own borders,” Vitter continued.
“I have serious issues with the president’s current proposal that appears to be an effort to bypass appropriate Congressional consideration. As you know, the Administration recently submitted two reprogramming requests for Ebola efforts,” funding in excess of $1 million for four agencies. “…While the committees partially granted the initial request with $50 million, pending questions about the coordination and consistency among those agencies to release the entire request, I strongly believe understanding the objectives and being informed of how the funds will be used is essential for members of Congress.”
Vitter said funds approved by Congress before the campaign recess should be adequate until lawmakers return Nov. 13.
“However, if funds have already been exhausted by ongoing operations, I respectfully ask that no more than the necessary interim funds be reprogrammed until members are able to receive the necessary briefing,” he said. “An authorization of $1 billion dollars should not be done behind closed doors or without full briefings being made available to members.”