FY 15 Omnibus spending legislation sent to the President for signature. This past weekend, the Senate finished work on an omnibus spending bill, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (“Act”), which funds most of the federal government for the remainder of FY 15. The House of Representatives passed this legislation last week and it now heads to the President’s desk for his promised signature. This legislation contains billions in new spending to fight the Ebola epidemic both in the United States and abroad.

$5.4 billion more to respond to Ebola. Congress had already appropriated $30 million in the FY 15 Continuing Resolution for the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) to respond to Ebola. The Act increases this appropriation dramatically among following agencies: (1) CDC; (2) Department of Defense (“DoD”); (3) Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”); (4) Health and Human Services Agency (“HHS”); (5) National Institutes of Health (“NIH”); and (6) Department of State (“DOS”). In total, $5.4 billion will be spent to fight Ebola both in the United States and abroad.

The Senate Appropriations Committee breaks down how those funds will be spent as follows:

  • $112 million will be appropriated to DoD for Ebola response and preparedness. Of this, $45 million will go to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s long-range research programs; $50 million to nearer-term research programs of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; and $17 million for procurement of equipment.
  • $25 million will be appropriated for Ebola response and preparedness at FDA, including “increased medical countermeasure activities.”
  • $2.742 billion will be appropriated to HHS to respond to the Ebola epidemic in the United States and other countries threatened by the virus. Funding will be used to: (1) develop vaccines and treatments; (2) train health care workers; (3) bolster quarantine stations at ports of entry; (3) create isolation units; (4) reimburse hospitals providing care; and (5) send CDC personnel to countries affected by Ebola.
  • $238 million will be appropriated to the NIH for Ebola-related research.
  • $2.5 billion will be appropriated to DOS “to respond to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and to strengthen public health capacity in other countries threatened by the virus.”

All of this $5.4 billion is deemed “emergency funding,” meaning it does not have to fall under the $1.1 trillion cap in discretionary spending for FY 15 that Congress agreed upon in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.

Congress appropriated almost the entire amount requested by the President. The funds appropriated in the Act are close to the $6.18 billion in emergency funding requested by the President November 5, 2014. At a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee November 12, representatives from DoD, HHS and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) testified on the need for the funds and where they would be used. Defense Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbotham testified of the continued need to contain the outbreak in West Africa and treat those with the disease. She noted, for example, that the funds will establish Community Care Centers across the region, to provide “medically safe places for individuals to receive basic care to help control the potential for continued transmission.” Sylvia Matthews Burwell, Secretary of HHS, testified that funds would help efforts to increase preparedness to Ebola in the United States by “improving readiness in hospitals, laboratories, and communities across the country.” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson testified of the enhanced screening efforts for passengers and cargo from countries impacted by Ebola and how the additional funds would support those efforts.

It appears that Congress listened and delivered big. However, a dramatic increase in the response to Ebola will likely be the subject of additional congressional oversight as Republicans assume the majority in both the House and the Senate in the 114th Congress.