Politics

Senators Want Broader U.S. Response To Ebola

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WASHINGTON -- The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has already claimed more than 2,400 lives, is outstripping U.S. and international efforts and may require stronger actions than those outlined by President Barack Obama, senators said Tuesday.

Senators at a joint hearing of a health committee and an appropriations subcommittee said they were prepared to approve Obama's $88 million request to expand the U.S. response. But they described Ebola as a threat to the world and suggested bigger steps than those announced by the president on Tuesday. Obama said his strategy for tackling the outbreak includes sending 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the Liberian capital of Monrovia, training 500 local health care workers per week, constructing 17 local health care facilities, and providing thousands of home care kits.

"What's happening in West Africa is happening because of the failure of a public health system" that lacks an equivalent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs both committees. "We have spent lots of taxpayer dollars in shoring up military operations around the world so people can defend themselves against insurgencies, and yet on this one aspect we have been woefully inadequate. It's like we expect our CDC to do everything. ... We need those other CDCs, those forward outposts where people can defend themselves and in turn defend us."

Harkin and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said they were concerned about leadership for the U.S. response. While efforts in West Africa are led by the Agency for International Development, Mikulski said she didn't know who was leading the administration's efforts in Washington. The White House should identify a point person, Mikulski said.

Republicans, of course, wasted no time alleging an underwhelming administration response. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said, "My math says we're going to be behind the eight ball on Day 1 because we won't have enough beds."

Dr. Kent Brantly, one of two Americans who contracted the virus in Liberia this summer and survived after treatment in Atlanta, told senators he felt it was his duty to speak up for strengthening a response he described as "sluggish." He met earlier in the day with Obama.

"Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control," Brantly said. "Indeed [Ebola] is a fire -- it is a fire straight from the pit of hell. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the vast moat of the Atlantic Ocean will protect us from the flames of this fire. Instead, we must ... keep entire nations from being reduced to ashes."

Dr. Beth Bell, director of emerging and infectious diseases at the CDC, said her agency does "not view Ebola as a significant public health threat to the United States" at present, even though the number of people infected is probably double the estimates. But the window of opportunity to control the outbreak is closing, she said, and the epidemic will become a global concern if unchecked.

The senators heard from agencies developing treatments and a vaccine -- the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The experts advocated further research into the experimental drug ZMapp, given to seven Ebola victims this summer, including Brantly. Five who got the treatment survived.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told senators that two potential vaccines against Ebola enter clinical trials this fall.

Before You Go

John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Liberian security forces, part of the country's Ebola Task Force, enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Liberia security forces patrol in the West Point area, as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Liberia security forces blockade an area around the West Point Ebola center as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Liberian security officers dressed in riot gear, right, control a crowed of people in the West Point area, as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Liberia security forces, blockade an area around the West Point Ebola center as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in city Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Liberia security forces in riot gear, blockade an area near the West Point Ebola center as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Liberian security forces, part of the country's Ebola Task Force, enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Liberian security forces, part of the country's Ebola Task Force, enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Liberian security forces, part of the country's Ebola Task Force, enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Liberian riot policemen enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Liberian security forces, part of the country's Ebola Task Force, enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Members of Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military began enforcing a quarantine on West Point, a congested favela of 75,000, fearing a spread of the Ebola epidemic in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Members of Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military began enforcing a quarantine on West Point, a congested favela of 75,000, fearing a spread of the Ebola epidemic in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Family members of West Point district commissioner Miata Flowers flee the slum while being escorted by the Ebola Task Force on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military was called in to extract the commissioner and her family members from the seaside slum after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The military also began enforcing a quarrantine on West Point, a congested slum of 75,000, fearing a spread of the epidemic. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Local residents protest as Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military began enforcing a quarantine on West Point, a congested favela of 75,000, fearing a spread of the Ebola epidemic in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Members of Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military began enforcing a quarantine on West Point, a congested favela of 75,000, fearing a spread of the Ebola epidemic in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Members of Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military began enforcing a quarantine on West Point, a congested favela of 75,000, fearing a spread of the Ebola epidemic in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Members of Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The government ordered the quarantine of West Point, a congested seaside town of 75,000, on Wednesday, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for allowing a holding center for suspected Ebola patients to be set up in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
People gather as Liberian security forces walk past in the West Point area, as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Liberia security forces dressed in riot gear, left, control a crowd of people in the West Point area, as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Liberian security officer patrols in the West Point area, as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Liberian soldiers patrol in the West Point area as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Residents from an area close to the West Point Ebola center, protest as they are not allowed to enter the area leading to their homes, after Liberia security forces blocked roads, as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Liberia's police chief Clanence Massaquoi (3L) speaks to residents of the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. A quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Liberian security forces, part of the country's Ebola Task Force, enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Residents watch as Liberian security forces, part of the country's Ebola Task Force, enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Residents watch as Liberian security forces, part of the country's Ebola Task Force, enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The quarantine of West Point, a congested favella of 75,000 people, began Wednesday, as the government tries to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. A mob overran and closed an Ebola isolation ward there on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Members of Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military began enforcing a quarantine on West Point, a congested favela of 75,000, fearing a spread of the Ebola epidemic in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Members of Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The government ordered the quarantine of West Point, a congested seaside town of 75,000, on Wednesday, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for allowing a holding center for suspected Ebola patients to be set up in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Members of Liberia's Ebola Task Force ride in the back of a pickup as they enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military began enforcing a quarantine on West Point, a congested favela of 75,000, fearing a spread of the Ebola epidemic in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore via Getty Images
MONROVIA, LIBERIA - AUGUST 20: Local residents protest as Liberia's Ebola Task Force enforce a quarantine on the West Point slum on August 20, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The military began enforcing a quarantine on West Point, a congested favela of 75,000, fearing a spread of the Ebola epidemic in the capital city. Liberian soldiers were also sent in to extract West Point Commissioner Miata Flowers and her family members after residents blamed the government for setting up a holding center for suspected Ebola patients in their community. A mob overran and closed the facility on August 16. The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four African nations, more in Liberia than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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