The U.S. House of Representatives has passed, by a 418 - 2 vote, legislation aimed at dealing with the threat of bioterrorism. The $2.9 billion spending measure contains nearly twice the amount of funding to fight bioterrorism as the Bush administration sought. The money is to come from a $20 billion anti-terrorism package Congress authorized after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
The legislation is a response to a series of anthrax attacks in recent months. Anthrax-laced letters killed five people in Florida, New York, Connecticut and Washington.
The House bill would authorize one billion dollars to increase the U.S. stockpile of medicines and vaccines, and another billion dollars to help states and local governments improve their ability to respond to bioterror attacks. The measure would provide $450 million to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upgrade facilities. It would require any U.S. laboratories that use deadly biological agents to register in a national database. The bill would also authorize $100 million each to protect food supplies and safeguard drinking water systems.
A similar measure is moving through the Senate.
In a related move, the House voted to increase penalties for those found guilty of staging bioterror, chemical or nuclear hoaxes. Emergency workers had to respond to thousands of false alarms as they investigated the recent spate of anthrax attacks.