WASHINGTON — Top lawmakers in Congress have approved the use of leftover Afghanistan war money to fight Ebola in West Africa.
But just $50 million of President Barack Obama’s $1 billion request has been approved for immediate use, under the opaque process by which congressional panels OK transfers between agency accounts. a House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman said
The final hurdle was the approval of Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who protested that the Pentagon has provided virtually no details about the mission, which would send the military to Africa to help with the logistics of fighting the dangerous virus. Inhofe signed off on the request on Wednesday.
The rest of the money will be released after the Pentagon offers a detailed spending plan and briefs key Capitol Hill committees on the mission.
The Pentagon mission will involve airlifting personnel, medical supplies and equipment such as tents to house Ebola victims and isolate people exposed to the virus. U.S. officials said earlier this week that more than 1 million people could be infected by the disease if it is left unchecked.
Inhofe’s move came shortly after Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, separately gave the nod for the money while demanding additional information about the mission.
Under the little-known process for shifting, or “reprogramming,” money between Pentagon accounts, the top lawmakers on the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services panel must sign off on the request.
ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press