“For months, I have been asking the Administration for their plan to address a pandemic outbreak of the avian flu. I am pleased the President has finally announced this plan and is focusing on this very real threat.

“The President today said that he will ask Congress to provide funding for this effort. Fortunately, the Senate has already acted. Last week, the Senate passed my proposal that addresses precisely the same issues that the President called for in his speech this morning. It provides resources to stockpile antiviral drugs for 50 percent of the population; improves our ability to produce and stockpile vaccines; doubles global surveillance to prevent or slow the spread of the disease from other countries to the United States; and invests in our state and local public health infrastructure, the first line of defense if avian flu reaches our shores. These funds could be available immediately.

“A flu pandemic is not a matter of if – but when. Instead of always looking into the rear-view mirror, we must do all we can to prevent a disaster, like avian flu, before it happens. The time for planning has passed – what we need now is action. HHS Secretary Leavitt, Dr. Gerberding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Fauci of the National Institutes of Health will testify before Senator Specter and me at a Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittee hearing tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about the Administration’s plan.”