Senate Defeats Democratic Bioterrorism Funding Plan
The Senate on Friday failed to add a $15 billion appropriation for bioterrorism prevention, homeland security and recovery efforts for New York City to a defense spending bill, the Washington Post reports. Instead, the Senate passed a bill on voice vote that would limit anti-terrorism spending to $20 billion, including $4.1 billion for "homeland defense." Senate Democrats had supported the plan to add additional bioterrorism funding, but were unable to obtain the 60 votes needed to attach the measure, as Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) joined all the Republicans in voting against a procedural change that would have allowed the measure to advance (Dewar, Washington Post, 12/8). Because the agreement would have "busted" an already approved budget, Senate rules required 60 votes to make changes. The funding would have been used to prevent and respond to biological attacks, inspect imported foods and "bolster" public health departments across the country (Koszczuk, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/8). $7.5 billion would have gone towards bioterrorism and security, with the remaining $7.5 billion going toward recovery efforts (Washington Post, 12/8). Under the plan, about $4 billion would have gone towards protecting the food supply. The funding would have been in addition to the $3 billion already appropriated for chemical and biological defense as part of a $40 billion emergency spending plan approved shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
President Bush had said he would veto any additional funding for terrorism prevention in addition to the $40 billion already approved after the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senate Republicans were "pressured" to use parliamentary procedures to block the extra funds (California Healthline, 12/6). Republicans said the $20 billion already appropriated was all that could be "wisely spent" in the next few months and that Democrats were attempting to force Republicans into "vot[ing] against popular spending causes to support the president" (Washington Post, 12/8). Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said, "It's been obvious that was just a political scheme. The strategy backfired" (Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 12/8). Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who lead the Democratic effort, was "angr[y]" over the vote and said, "We do not seem to be able to pull together in [Washington D.C.] for America even in this time when the people of the United States are united" against terrorism (Hosler, Baltimore Sun, 12/8). However, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said he will request "substantial spending" in the next budget to improve public health facilities, train epidemiologists, build laboratories and "ensure that all areas of the country have at least a minimal capacity to handle bioterrorism," the Post reports (Washington Post, 12/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.