Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., at a hearing on Thursday complained that budget cuts in the U.S. have increased the likelihood of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
“In the past decade, the ability to fund research and public health programs has declined here in the United States,” the outgoing congressman said during the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.
“Since 2006, [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] budget, adjusted for inflation, has dropped by 12 percent. Funding for the public health emergency preparedness cooperative agreement, which supports state and local health department preparedness activities, has been cut from $1 billion, in its first year of funding in 2002, to $612 million dollars in in 2014,” he added.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, is among those testifying before Congress on the federal government’s response to the spread of Ebola in the United States.
Waxman said: “All of these were also subject to the sequestration. And those who allowed that sequestration to happen by closing the government have to answer to the American people as well.” It should be noted, though, that sequestration was already in place when the government shutdown of October 2013 began.
“We need to commit adequate funding to public health infrastructure,” he said, adding later, “When we have a crisis, we have congressmen sit and point fingers. Well, let’s point fingers at all of those responsible. We have our share of responsibility by not funding the infrastructure.”
U.S. Global Health Program spending — funds that go toward fighting diseases in countries like Liberia — has increased steadily since fiscal year 2001:
Further, as the Mercatus Center’s Veronique de Rugy observed in the chart below, the supposedly "devastating" 2013 sequester budget cuts had little affect on overall government spending:
Waxman announced in January his intention to retire after serving nearly 35 years in Congress.
“The reason for my decision is simple. After 40 years in Congress, it’s time for someone else to have the chance to make his or her mark, ideally someone who is young enough to make the long-term commitment that’s required for real legislative success,” he said in a statement. “I still feel youthful and energetic, but I recognize if I want to experience a life outside of Congress, I need to start soon. Public office is not the only way to serve, and I want to explore other avenues while I still can.”