Monday, April 27, 2009

Rove, Collins Among Republicans Who Fought Pandemic Flu Preparedness

Writing in The Nation, John Nichols recounts how Republicans fought against any provision for pandemic flu preparedness in the stimulus bill, denying the financial ramifications of an emergency:

[House Appropriations Committee chairman David] Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse -- with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans -- led by Maine Senator Susan Collins -- aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.

Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey's attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.

Collins, among the Republicans whose vote was critical to the passage of the stimulus bill, prevailed in her demand that pandemic preparedness be stripped from it. Indeed, Collins' insistence is recounted in a Wall Street Journal article on her web site:

After meeting with Mr. Obama, Sen. Collins expressed concern about a number of spending provisions, including $780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness. "I have no doubt that the president is willing to negotiate in good faith, that he wants to have a bipartisan bill," Sen. Collins said.

Watch Collins speaking about pandemic flu preparedness in regards to the stimulus bill:

Collins: There's $780 million for pandemic flu preparedness. ...What does that have to do with an economic stimulus package?

Karl Rove also didn't see the necessity, as he wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "There's also $4 billion for health programs like...$900 million for pandemic flu preparations. It is not surprising that the stimulus package is laden with new spending programs."

One hopes that Rove, Collins and other Republicans read a Reuters article today that might help them connect the dots between a potential swine flu pandemic and its disastrous effects on the economy:

Oil prices fell more than 2 percent to close to $50 a barrel as investors feared a new blow to an already fragile global economy if trade flows are curbed and manufacturing is hit.

The MSCI world equity index fell 0.8 percent and U.S. stocks also slipped.

Flu fears hit U.S. airline stocks hard as investors worried that the travel industry would suffer. Shares prices for UAL Corp, the parent of United Airlines, shed 14 percent, while Continental Airlines Inc lost 16 percent.

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