The congressional response to the Ebola crisis, so far, has focused on hearings about the outbreak in West Africa and assembling initial funding for the U.S. international response effort. Congressional reaction has largely been supportive of U.S. response efforts. However, the first case of a patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States opens up broader questions on domestic public health issues.
Last week, lawmakers began the partial transfer of Pentagon funding for military-led assistance in Africa. Last month, a stopgap spending bill added additional funds for HHS and CDC Ebola research and response activities. This week, the Texas Ebola case caused CDC and state health officials to scramble to examine 100 people who had contact with the diagnosed patient.
Also this week, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz inquired about new FAA travel restrictions. Texas Republican Rep. Michael C. Burgess, who is also a physician, suggested an examination of the possibility of suspending travel from selected countries. CQ Roll Call’s David Harrison reported (subscription) on the current CDC position, which allows travel from Africa.
Additionally, isolating an Ebola patient poses expensive logistical concerns for health care providers. If additional domestic Ebola cases emerge, local officials are likely to seek additional federal financial assistance. Also, segregating Ebola patients opens up an examination of the existing authority of federal and state agencies to isolate and quarantine patients. Here is a 2007 (the most recent) Congressional Research Service primer on quarantine authority.