Republicans In Congress Refuse To Fund Zika Virus Response
The Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, has hit the U.S. mainland, but nobody knows exactly how far mosquitoes that carry the virus have advanced into the United States. That’s because Republicans in Congress have refused to provide the money that top medical experts say is necessary to track and counter the spread of Zika.
It’s very bad news because, although the Zika virus can kill some adults, its impact on developing fetuses is even worse. It stops the normal development of their heads, so that they are left with tiny skulls with tiny brains. When they are born, most of them will survive, but they will never attain normal neurological development. They will suffer their entire lives.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, scientific director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that his agency is taking money from non-related programs to cope with the spread of the Zika virus. “We can’t sustain it,” he warns. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, has urged Congress for weeks to approve $1.9 billion dollars in funding for anti-Zika programs, explaining, “the sooner we get ample resources for a response, the more effectively we can protect pregnant women.”
Regulating pregnancy is something that Republicans say they care a great deal about, but they don’t seem to care much about what the Zika virus is doing to pregnant women and the children they are carrying. “Before the year is out, there could be hundreds of thousands of Zika infections in Puerto Rico and thousands of infected pregnant women.” That’s just in Puerto Rico.
1.9 billion dollars is what the medical doctors leading the fight against Zika say they need to do an adequate job. 0.62 billion dollars is what Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have voted to provide.
These same Republicans are supporting Donald Trump’s plan to spent $25 billion dollars to build a wall on the border of Mexico, and then spend three quarters of a billion dollars every year to maintain it. A border wall wouldn’t stop mosquitos carrying the Zika virus.
Paul Ryan, whose congressional district is in Wisconsin, says that there’s no reason to rush the funding of anti-Zika measures. “If additional Zika resources are needed, those funds could and should be addressed through the regular appropriations process,” Ryan says. It could be another year and a half before funds to fight Zika could be made available through the regular appropriations process.
Peak mosquito season is about to begin in Puerto Rico, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Can people there wait for Paul Ryan’s plan to begin funding to fight the Zika virus at the beginning of 2018?
It was way back in February that the Obama Administration followed the advice of Fauci, Frieden, and other medical experts, and requested funding to fight Zika from Congress. As of today, the Republican-controlled Senate has yet to even vote on any legislation that would provide those funds. As with the House Republicans’ legislation, the Senate plan provides only a fraction of the Zika funds that experts say is needed.
At the beginning of April, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan pleaded, “Congress needs to act immediately. We cannot wait.” The Republicans in Congress have, nonetheless, waited ever since. “We’re going to continue to talk about what we’re going to do,” said Senator Roy Blunt after hearing Donovan’s warning. Talk is all that the Senate Republicans have done on the Zika issue.
The Republican plan requires the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control to stop their work to combat other diseases, and redirect money from those other sources to fight Zika. So, it’s not just people in areas with mosquitos carrying the Zika virus that will suffer the consequences of the GOP’s indifference.