In August, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor made an unexpected accusation —
that his Republican opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, was soft on Ebola.
Pryor, who is locked in a tight re-election battle, released an ad, titled "Emergency Response," that claimed that Cotton had voted "to cut billions from our nation's medical disaster and emergency programs."
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With news clips about the Ebola outbreak playing on the screen, the narrator says, "Tom Cotton voted against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola."
Pryor may have been one of the first candidates to make Ebola a campaign issue, the outbreak has now become an issue in other campaigns.
In North Carolina, Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis issued a call for a travel ban on flights from African nations impacted by the outbreak, reports The Hill
And former Obama administration official and political pundit Van Jones suggested Democrats use the issue to attack Republicans on budget cuts.
"We can't let the Republicans get away with some of the stuff they’re doing this week, just trying to bash Obama. Hey, you know, government is always your enemy until you need a friend. This Ebola thing is the best argument you can make for the kind of government that we believe in," said Jones during a discussion of the 2014 midterm elections on ABC's "This Week."
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The problem with Jones' strategy is that the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the government agency primarily responsible for handling the outbreak and preventing it from spreading in the U.S., has seen its budget increase in recent years.
In January, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion measure to fund the government and actually increases spending by about $26 billion over fiscal 2013, including $6.9 billion for the CDC, an 8.2 percent increase for the fiscal 2014. In 2013, the CDC budget was $567 million, reports the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Of the $6.9 billion, $1.3 billion was allocated to protect the United States from foreign and domestic threats, and $255 million support bio-defense efforts.
In 2014, the CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry combined had a $10.7 billion budget, while the annual average during the Obama administration is $10.8 billion including the stimulus, according to The Wall Street Journal.
According to the CDC's budget request,
it asked for $432.4 million for emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases — including $51.8 million from the PPHF — is an increase of $70.3 million from FY 2012 enacted. The PPHF is the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which can be used to supplant dollars that used to be appropriated through the normal process.
However, the Journal's editorial board notes: "In 2013 HHS raided the PPHF of $453.8 million, or 48% of that year’s appropriation, to fund the ObamaCare insurance exchanges. Those PPHF dollars that have flowed to public health are an insult to this once august field. The PPHF sponsors liberal pressure groups to lobby states and cities for higher tobacco taxes and zoning laws that restrict fast food, and its other urgent causes include dance fitness, massage therapy, painting bike lanes, salad bars in school cafeterias, pet neutering and urban gardening."
Despite the intense coverage of the Ebola outbreak, American public's confidence in the government's ability to manage the crisis remains high, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
The survey conducted October 2-5 found that 20 percent have a “great deal” of confidence in the federal government to prevent a major outbreak and 38 percent expressed a “fair amount” of confidence.
Not surprisingly given their skepticism of government, Republicans are less confident. While 69 percent of Democrats have confidence in the government's response, 51 percent of Republicans say they have little or no confidence.
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