WASHINGTON – The White House on Friday sent Congress a request for $30 million to pay for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's efforts to help contain the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.
The administration wants the money added to a spending bill to keep government agencies running until mid-December and comes on top of $58 million it requested above current levels to speed the production of promising drugs to fight the deadly disease.
The White House is also seeking additional flexibility for the Homeland Security Department to cope with the thousands of unaccompanied Central American children still arriving at the southern border.
Meanwhile, it's also telling lawmakers that it wants to include extending the charter of the Export-Import Bank in a must-do temporary spending bill that's required to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month. The bank helps foreign buyers purchase U.S. exports.
The requests are contained in White House budget office documents sent to Capitol Hill's appropriations committees as they prepare the temporary funding measure slated for votes the next two weeks. The measure would freeze government agency budgets at current levels into December. The roster of so-called anomalies was requested to deal with urgent cases a budget freeze could not accommodate.
For instance, Friday's $30 million request would pay for agency epidemiologists and intelligence officers who are tracing the spread of the disease in Africa, boosting the number of staff from 100 to 150 or more. It would also pay for support staff in the U.S.
An earlier $58 million request for the Centers for Disease Control would help the agency ramp up production and testing of the experimental drug ZMapp, which has shown promise in fighting the Ebola epidemic in western Africa. It would also help keep the development and manufacturing of two Ebola vaccines on track. The White House request seeks to use $10 million in unused balances at the Department of Health and Human Services to help with the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
The administration also is requesting flexibility for Customs and Border Protection to spend more money dealing with the influx of unaccompanied Central American children. Congress failed to pass President Barack Obama's July request for $3.7 billion to address the crisis, though the House adopted a significantly scaled-back version.
The request also seeks permission for the Department of Health and Human Service to maintain higher spending rates to house and care for unaccompanied immigrant children but added that that's just a stopgap solution until supplemental funding is approved later in the year.
The request to keep the Export-Import Bank alive comes as House GOP leaders seek to smooth over divisions between tea party lawmakers opposed to renewing the bank's charter and more establishment, pro-business Republicans who support it. Critics say the bank benefits big corporations like Boeing because its foreign customers get to purchase exports at lower interest rates than they would otherwise pay. Supporters say boosting exports creates jobs.
GOP aides have privately signaled that some sort of extension of the bank's charter is likely to be attached to the temporary funding bill.
The document also contains a request by the Pentagon to devote $250 million of its budget for overseas military operations to remove unexploded shells and other ordnance from training ranges in Afghanistan as U.S. ground troops withdraw. Otherwise, Afghan civilians could be at risk.
It seems no detail is too small. For instance, the request asks for authority to use unspent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention money to keep a freezer construction project on its Fort Collins, Colorado, campus on track.
A White House budget office spokeswoman and aides to the House and Senate Appropriations committees declined to comment on the requests. The House Appropriations Committee would like to unveil the spending measure by Tuesday night.