The Republican healthcare plan swiftly moving through the U.S. House has divided the GOP candidates in the race for Georgia’s 6th District. But the leading Democrat in the race to represent the suburban Atlanta district said one part of the plan should unite all the contenders.
Jon Ossoff on Monday seized on a provision to gut the federal Prevention and Public Health Fund, which would deal a $891 million blow to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At a press conference with a former CDC director, he called on the other 17 candidates in the April 18 election to oppose the cuts, which he said would “undermine our national security and our health security.”
“This is an opportunity for all candidates to demonstrate good will and oppose this provision,” said Ossoff, a former Congressional aide. “Regardless of where we stand, I think all 18 of us should unify behind opposition to this part.”
The CDC sends the bulk of the money to state health agencies around the country and uses about $265 million for initiatives that target Zika, Ebola and influenza. The money also pays for staff salaries and programs to stem obesity and smoking.
He stood next to Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, the former director of the CDC who is now Emory University’s vice president for global health. Koplan said slashing the fund will bring “increasing risk of disease and death” and hamper the CDC’s ability to fight emerging health threats.
“The current proposed budget cuts are part of the CDC’s integral operating funds,” Koplan said. “While some say it’s trimming excess fat, this would deeply delve into the agency’s core functions.”
Several Republicans in the race scoffed out Ossoff's request. Former State Sen. Dan Moody said he was "showing his youth, inexperience and liberalism."
"The only thing he’s ever cut is the ribbon on a birthday present," said Moody in a statement. "The CDC has spent $10 million on new office furniture, $200,000 on a fitness center and $30,000 for a sauna for their headquarters, $3.2 million getting monkeys drunk and $181,000 studying the effects of cocaine on a Japanese Quail’s sex drive. They can tighten up their belts and focus on their core mission just like everybody else."
Bruce LeVell, a Dunwoody business owner who was head of Trump's diversity coalition, challenged Ossoff to propose a single non-defense spending item he would cut from the budget instead of "these unnecessary CDC programs."
"The CDC should be tightening its belt, not being used by progressives to tell Americans to tighten theirs," said LeVell. "Ossoff is more concerned with maintaining his government buddies' salaries than saving taxpayer dollars."
The district, which stretches from east Cobb to north DeKalb, has been in Republican hands since Jimmy Carter was president. And Tom Price, now Donald Trump's health secretary, won it by overwhelming margins since his 2004 election.
But Trump’s struggles in the establishment-friendly swath – he won the area by a skinny one-point margin – have emboldened Democrats hoping a crowded field of 18 candidates gives them an opening to flip the district. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will square off in a June 20 runoff.
With a “make Trump furious” campaign, Ossoff is looking to cement a spot in the contest. He said he's raised more than $3 million and has attracted droves of volunteers and media attention in the most competitive race in the nation since the Republican became president.