Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Carolyn Kaster/AP

Hillary Clinton Proposes Solution for Federal Government to Deal With Zika-Type Crises

Current system leaves agencies -- and sick people -- beholden to sluggish Congress, she says.

Hillary Clinton thinks the way federal agencies respond to health crises is broken, and she has an idea for how operate the efforts more effectively.

The Democratic presidential nominee proposed on Wednesday creating a Public Health Rapid Response Fund to enable agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health and Human Services Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency to more rapidly deploy resources to contain and mitigate outbreaks. The plan, Clinton announced in a statement Wednesday, would enable the federal government to “quickly and aggressively respond to major public health crises and pandemics.”

The proposal comes as Congress and the Obama administration have quarreled over funding the government response to the Zika outbreak, with Republican lawmakers refusing to back the president’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency spending to address the crisis. The Senate agreed to a $1.1 billion compromise, but the House approved the measure only with riders on controversial issues related to issues such as Planned Parenthood and the Confederate flag. Clinton also cited a report that found public health spending has dropped by 9 percent from 2008 through 2014.

“Uncertain long-term budgets leave our public health agencies dependent on emergency appropriations,” Clinton said, “meaning that when Congress fails to step up, communities are left without the resources they need, vaccines languish in development, and more people get sick.”

The former State Department secretary said her rapid response fund would have “consistent, year-to-year budgets.” She promised “strong leadership” in government to better support “people on the ground facing public health challenges.” 

Both Clinton and her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, have called on Congress to appropriate emergency funds to fight the spread of Zika.