A drafted measure that would provide $1.1 billion toward Zika virus prevention has been blocked by Senate Democrats, who said the Republican-backed bill did not provide enough support and contained partisan legislation targeting women’s health and environmental regulations.
Voting in the Senate was 52-48 behind the bill, but it required eight additional votes to pass. The possibility exists that the bill will come up for another vote before July 18, when Congress will adjourn for a 7-week recess.
“Republicans need to get serious about sending President Obama the full $1.9 billion that doctors, researchers, nurses, public health experts say is needed to fight Zika,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said today, according to a press release. “Every moment Republicans delay, there are other cases of Zika on innocent women which affects their children more than one can imagine.”
According to Senate Democrats, the proposed bill — which was passed by the House on June 23 and would provide $1.1 billion in Zika funding through September 2017 — limited access to Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning clinics and rolled back pesticide restrictions implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency. While Reid said his party could not pass a “goody bag for the fringes of the Republican Party,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Democrats’ politicking comes at the expense of those affected by Zika virus.
“So here we are in an utterly absurd position, playing political games, as this public health crisis mounts here in our country,” McConnell said today in a release. “Pregnant women all across America are looking at this with dismay, utter dismay. As we sit here in a partisan gridlock manufactured by the other side over issues that’s pretty hard for the general public to understand, refusing to pass the funds needed to address this public health concern.”
McConnell entered a motion to reconsider the failed vote that could come before the congressional recess in 2 weeks.
Amesh A. Adalja, MD, FACP, spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said he was disappointed with the politically driven actions of both parties, and noted that such arguments have become more and more common during recent public health emergencies.
Amesh A. Adalja
“This bill was meant to provide emergency funds to augment infection control, testing and a lot of the response that local and state public health would be conducting to prevent the spread of Zika,” Adalja told Infectious Disease News. “What’s increasingly happening — not just with Zika, but with infectious diseases in general — is a large amount of politicization, where each party puts in their certain provisions which are objectionable to the other side, and then these types of scenarios occur more and more often.”
Since Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in Zika funding in February, his administration has announced plans to redirect approximately $510 million from resources previously allocated to combat Ebola virus efforts. These actions have substantially weakened efforts to prevent Ebola and other emerging diseases in West Africa, members of the administration said in April, underlining the urgent need for legislative leaders to promptly provide the requested financial support. – by Dave Muoio
Disclosure: Adalja reports no relevant disclosures.