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Republicans Plucked Pandemic Flu Cash From Stimulus

As the swine flu has caused the United States to declare a health emergency and the European Union to warn against travel to the U.S. and Mexico, The Nation’s John Nichols reminds us that there’s a political side to this story. Namely, that efforts from Democrats like Rep. David Obey (Wis.) to stick hundreds of millions of flu prevention dollars into the stimulus package earlier this year were killed by Republicans, who argued that the money would do nothing to help the economy rebound.

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’ Website still boasts of her successful effort to pluck the pandemic-mitigation cash from the stimulus bill. Depending on the degree to which the deadly flu spreads, she might want to tone down the bragging.

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