House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said it is "not right" that Congress has not held a hearing on funding levels
for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and called for Congress to "return to Washington immediately" to debate the issue.
"The Appropriations Committee should return to Washington immediately and convene hearings to discuss and debate the issue of funding levels," said the California Democrat in a statement.
"While it is important that the House Homeland Security and Energy and Commerce committees have held hearings, it is not right that the Appropriations Committee has not met in accordance with its responsibilities to fund these critical public health agencies," she said.
Pelosi's statement came a day after Democrats voiced their displeasure
with the lack of response to an Oct. 7 request for the House Appropriations Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education Appropriations subcommittee to meet.
"As we mourn the death of Thomas Eric Duncan and pray for the two healthcare workers infected in Dallas, we reiterate our call for Chairman [Jack] Kingston to convene our subcommittee immediately," said Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., in a Wednesday press release.
Since Duncan's death on Oct. 8, Democratic members of Congress have focused on funding as the solution to the government's ineffective response to the current crisis.
On Oct. 1, House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats sent a letter to committee Chairman Fred Upton outlining the "key short-term and long-term questions" that they wanted asked at upcoming hearings
The first long-term question they asked was: "How have stagnant or declining budgets for U.S. public health agencies affected their ability to respond in this crisis? What budgetary changes are needed to ensure that these agencies have the resources necessary to prevent, detect, and respond to global or domestic public health emergencies?" inquired the legislators.
The Democrats' claim that GOP budget cuts are responsible for any lack of Ebola research was refuted by Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's Fact Checker
, who said "on many levels, this line of attack is absurd."
Basing his examination on official budget documents the CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have submitted to Congress, Kessler found Democrats' submitted budget requests were generally met. And, he notes, in 2013 Congress appropriated more to the NIH than the White House had requested.
In January, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion measure to fund the government and actually increased spending by about $26 billion over fiscal 2013, including $6.9 billion for the CDC, an 8.2 percent increase for fiscal 2014, $567 million more than its 2013 budget, reports the Atlanta Business Chronicle
Funding for the CDC has emerged as an issue on the campaign trail as well.
In Michigan, Democrat congressional candidate Paul Clements criticized Republican Rep. Fred Upton for being "a leading opponent of increasing funding to the CDC," reports The Kalamazoo Gazette
And CDC and NIH officials also have claimed budget cuts have hampered their response, reports The Washington Times
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