WASHINGTON - Almost $1 billion to help the US military fight Ebola in West Africa has been tied up for nearly a month as the Obama administration negotiates with a handful of Republicans in Congress to lift their objections.
The lawmakers are demanding detailed plans on uses for the funds, precautions to keep military personnel from contracting the deadly virus and prevent the mission from turning into an expensive, long-term Pentagon commitment.
The lawmakers have held firm in these demands despite the first Ebola case being diagnosed in the United States in recent days, releasing only $50 million of the request to shift $1 billion from the Defense Department's war operations budget.
Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the recent cases involving Americans show that much is still unknown about protecting people in infected communities.
"This is an international crisis, and the United States should assist, which is why my colleagues and I have approved part of the president's $1 billion request," Inhofe said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
"But I also believe that the administration has a responsibility to show they are going to protect our service members who are being deployed to infected regions and also show a plan for how they are going to transition the aid to more appropriate government agencies and NGOs," the Oklahoma Republican said.
Congressional aides from both parties said on Monday they expect the administration to respond to these requests later this week, which may prompt release of the funds, or fuel more questions.