Given the newly reported cases of Zika in Florida and the Olympics about to start in Rio de Janeiro, there’s a growing fear of the severity of the Zika virus threat. People have been saying a lot of things, not least among them that Congress has failed to act to protect Americans. Unfortunately, the reality is that the Zika crisis has been hijacked for political gain.
Here’s where we are:
VERIFIED: The resources to fight Zika are already in the pipeline. It was reported in early July that of the nearly $600 million set aside for the Zika virus, the Obama administration has only spent one-sixth of that amount. On July 14, members of the House and Senate appropriations committees sent a joint letter to President Obama urging the White House to take rapid action with the remaining Zika funds. As CQ Roll Call reported yesterday, “The Obama administration is struggling to explain why it is pressing Congress for more money to fight the Zika virus while sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars that it already controls and could be used instead.”
VERIFIED: The House has passed a plan to put more resources in place. In June, the House passed the final conference report for the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Zika Response Appropriations Act. This responsible bicameral compromise ensures that the administration continues to have resources in place to protect the public from the Zika threat. The conference report includes $1.1 billion in funding and other logical steps—like making it easier to spray for mosquitoes—to help stop the spread of this disease in the United States.
VERIFIED: Senate Democrats have repeatedly blocked funding—with cover from the White House. Senate Democrats—not once, but twice—blocked the $1.1 billion funding bill to combat Zika despite months of demanding action and even voting in favor of that exact amount at an earlier date. This was a blatant political ploy. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Senate Democrats “walked out on their own bill…to use the issue as a campaign bludgeon against Republicans.” And now, the Obama administration is issuing major warnings for Florida, but it’s still not making a real effort to push Congressional Democrats to pass this funding legislation.
VERIFIED: The federal government recommends more mosquito control—Democrats blocked this too. Despite calls from the CDC and EPA for more mosquito spraying in Puerto Rico, Senate Democrats have blocked a commonsense proposal to make it easier to do so. The House-passed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), removes duplicative regulatory barriers which make mosquito spraying too expensive for small businesses.
The truth is pretty clear. As the Wall Street Journal summed up in an editorial yesterday, “Democrats are calling Republicans obstructionists in hopes that frustration with government . . . will deliver them the Senate and perhaps even the House in November. But the root cause of Washington’s Zika pathology is Democrats who are exploiting the virus to score political points.”