Senate Poised for Fight over Zika Funding

The Senate will vote tomorrow on legislation that could provide $1.1 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. The coming months are peak mosquito season, and there are fears among health officials that if action is not taken there might be an explosion in incidence of the mosquito-borne disease.

A Centers for Disease Control Interim Response Plan released earlier this month warned that “local transmission of Zika virus in US territories and affiliated Pacific Island countries is ongoing.” It also noted that “neither vaccines nor proven clinical treatments are expected to be available to treat or prevent Zika virus infections before local transmission begins within [the Continental United States] or Hawaii.”

The Majority and Minority leaders both addressed the bill in their opening statements. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said that combating the spread of the Zika virus should be a priority of both parties. He then accused Senate Democrats of playing partisan politics over funding.

Harry Reid, D-NV, accused the Republican package of being “full of poison pills.” He says that with cuts to Obamacare, Ebola funding, and provisions prohibiting funding in the bill from being directed to Planned Parenthood “it’s like we’re being dared to oppose this legislation.” Democrats are also upset that the bill falls short of the $1.9 billion the Obama administration requested.

The bill has already made it through the House, but even if it does pass the upper chamber the administration has warned it may veto it. This week is the last week for the Senate to address the issue before a long July 4th recess.

The Majority Whip, John Cornyn, R-TX, called the shifting of funds from other programs better than deficit spending.

“I hope we will act with dispatch,” he said, commending the Obama administration for reprogramming $589 million from the Ebola fund to face the Zika threat. He called for support of the bill, and echoed the Majority Leader’s accusation against Senate Democrats.

“They can either play politics at the expense of women and children across the nation, or they can support the bill.”

by Marlon J. Ettinger

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