While many issues divide Washington, we have seen bipartisan progress -- in both the House and the Senate -- in the effort to combat Ebola. These steps forward are encouraging, and hopefully suggest positive momentum for the President’s vital $6.2 billion emergency funding request to fight Ebola here at home and in West Africa.
Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved legislation sponsored by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to accelerate the development of Ebola-fighting vaccines and treatments. The legislation leverages a longstanding federal program to incentivize vaccine and therapeutic development by promising prompt regulatory review for drug makers.
Already, teams at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are doing incredible work researching, testing, developing, and approving vaccines to prevent Ebola; large-scale clinical tests of the first two vaccines for Ebola are only weeks away in Liberia and Sierra Leone. But because these vaccines remain unproven, and because others might be even better, the Harkin-Alexander bill could be a valuable tool in this fight.
Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee gave unanimous approval to legislation by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Mark Meadows (R-NC), called the “Ebola Emergency Response Act,” which endorses the whole-of-government approach required to continue to tackle this threat. Congress’s bipartisan support for this life-saving work and national security priority shows that the fight against Ebola does not run along party lines.
We welcome bipartisan legislative efforts against this threat and renew our call on Congress to take the most urgent and important step needed to fight this battle: fund the President’s emergency request during the current “lame duck” session. These resources are urgently needed to combat Ebola in West Africa, improve our preparedness here in the United States, and accelerate the development of new vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics -- ideas that both parties have embraced.