WASHINGTON - A group of U.S. senators on Tuesday sought $300 million in U.S. spending to combat tuberculosis while new tests confirmed that the U.S. man at the center of an international TB alarm is not highly infectious.

Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas introduced legislation in the Senate to fund efforts to develop new drugs, diagnostic tests, vaccines and other steps.

Comment: Gee, who might benefit from new drugs, diagnostic tests, and vaccines?

"It's possible to eradicate TB in the United States," Brown told a news conference.

The bill would authorize more money for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local health authorities. Another bill to increase federal TB efforts, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Gene Green of Texas, was introduced in the House of Representatives in March.

The Senate bill was introduced about a week after federal authorities imposed a rare isolation order on Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta lawyer with a hard-to-treat kind of TB after he placed fellow airline passengers at risk of infection during May flights to and from Europe for his wedding and honeymoon.

"The unfortunate situation of Andrew Speaker has brought the whole TB issue a little more in focus for the Congress," Brown said.

Comment: How convenient.

TB is a sometimes fatal bacterial infection usually attacking the lungs. Annually, about 9 million people worldwide get TB and it kills about 1.6 million people, with the highest toll in developing countries, particularly in Africa.

The bill would authorize $300 million in TB spending in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 and additional unspecified spending through 2012. The federal government currently spends about $130 million per year on TB control efforts in the United States, Brown said.

The United States also gave $724 million this year to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which combats those diseases globally.

TB has become less and less common in the United States, with about 14,000 TB cases reported in 2006.

Speaker is being treated at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver for extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR TB. While no more contagious than other TB strains, most antibiotics do not work against it.

The hospital said another test indicated Speaker was not very infectious. It said a third consecutive sputum smear test, which assesses if there are large numbers of tuberculosis organisms in a patient's sputum, had come back negative.

The test is considered helpful in determining how sick and how contagious a patient is.

"Current Centers for Disease Control/American Thoracic Society Guidelines indicate that patients on therapy with three consecutive negative sputum smears may be regarded as non-infectious in most settings," the hospital said in a statement.

A subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is due on Wednesday to hear from CDC chief Dr. Julie Gerberding, and a senior official from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency during a hearing about the government's actions relating to Speaker.