U.S. senator lifts objections to $750 million Ebola funding shift

U.S. senator lifts objections to $750 million Ebola funding shift

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department won permission to shift $750 million in war funds to fight Ebola in West Africa as a Republican senator on Friday lifted his remaining objections to the transfer. The action by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma will give the Pentagon enough funding for about six months of operations in West Africa, including the deployment of up to 4,000 troops and the establishment some 17 Ebola treatment facilities with 100 beds each. But key members of Congress are still withholding about $250 million of the Obama administration's original request to shift $1 billion to the Ebola effort under an arcane procedure known as a "reprogramming request." Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, had raised objections over the lack of a coherent Ebola strategy, insufficient details on protections to keep U.S. military staff from being exposed to the deadly virus, and lack of a plan to transfer the effort to "a more appropriate entity." "After careful consideration, I believe that the outbreak has reached a point that the only organization in the world able to provide the capabilities and speed necessary to respond to this crisis is the U.S. military," Inhofe said in a statement. He joined two senior Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives who had agreed to the $750 million shift on Thursday. Democratic leaders on the House and Senate Armed Services committees and Appropriations defense subcommittees had voiced no objections to the funding request. But Inhofe said he could not support an indefinite commitment of U.S. troops to the Ebola mission in West Africa. "Because of the failure of the Obama administration to responsibly and strategically plan in advance for how the U.S. will be involved in West Africa, it will be difficult for me to support any further last-minute funding requests using military resources," he added. "That is why I have insisted another more appropriate funding source be identified for operations beyond six months." (Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey)

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