Monday, April 27, 2009

Collins Battles Headache from Swine Flu Outbreak

As the swine flu epidemic was elevated to category 4 status, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was defending her efforts earlier this year to strike $870 million from the federal economic stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year. That money would have gone to improve the Center for Disease Control's ability to handle a possible flu pandemic.

"I think everybody in the room is concerned about a pandemic flu," Collins told MSNBC on Feb. 5 during stimulus negotiations. "But does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill? No. We should not."

Collins' office notes that the senator herself has called for additional pandemic funding, but she did not believe a bill to create jobs and stimulate the economy was the proper vehicle for it. She favored seeking the funding through the regular appropriations process.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) disputed the notion that pandemic preparedness was unrelated to the economy. "A pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse," he said at the time.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has announced it will hold an April 29 hearing on the federal government's response to the swine flu outbreak.


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