Zika virus threatening US health security while Congress bickers

With lawmakers back from their Memorial Day recess, it’s time to address a serious and deepening health emergency that has America in its sights: the spread of the Zika virus, which causes the disease microcephaly, a horrible brain shrinking condition in infants. 

Washington’s protracted squabbling over President Obama’s emergency request for $1.9 billion to fight the widening Zika epidemic is directly putting the health of unborn American children at risk and compromises the nation’s health security as a whole (“Pressure builds on Zika funding,” May 23). When top U.S. and global health experts warn that swift action is needed to mitigate the spread of the disease and our lawmakers swap fact-based analysis for partisan politics, they also risk a harsh judgment by history. 

{mosads}Moreover, plans to finance anti-Zika efforts by diverting unspent but needed funds to fight Ebola make little sense; these funds should be used to ensure that epidemic, mitigated partly by a successful U.S.-led global health emergency operation akin to the plan the administration envisages for Zika, stays under control. It would be like redirecting firefighters to a new house when the fire they were fighting isn’t really out yet. It only takes a puff of wind for the original fire to ignite again. 

The Zika funding currently on the table is in itself insufficient. The House plan to provide $622 million for Zika is well short of what is needed. While the Senate is taking the issue more seriously, its offer of $1.1 billion is also significantly below the president’s request and is not adequate to the task at hand. 

There is always room for sensible budgeting and long-term planning on how our taxpayer funds are spent. But there is much we don’t know about Zika virus. Lawmakers are making a risky gamble that reduced Zika funding is sufficient when experts say it isn’t, that the Zika virus won’t be actively transmitted on the mainland when experts say it will, and that stepping back from Ebola control in Africa won’t threaten millions on the continent and U.S. soil again when experts say it could.

Congress should rise above politics and fully fund the president’s full request quickly, before it is too late and we awaken one day to the tragic reality of American babies being born with serious birth defects from mosquito-borne Zika virus. 

From Dr. Tom Kenyon, president and CEO of Project HOPE, Millwood, Va.

Republican lawmakers’ priorities based solely out of self-interest

America has a shame that it will never forget: the far right-wing conservatives of the Republican Party, a group of men and women who have chosen racism over patriotism. Elected officials are answerable to the American people, but conservative officials have chosen not to perform the nation’s business. Senators like Orrin Hatch who used to work for the good of the nation, now work to impede the president in his duty. Yes, Barack Obama is technically a lame-duck president, but he is still the president — a president who cannot accomplish anything because of racism.

The Republican Party has shown its true colors, hatred and racism, but come November, it may lose every seat in the House and the Senate. The American people should fire every one of them. Conservatives are guilty of treachery and treason against the people of the United States of America. They are thieves, liars and cowards, who only care about themselves and their wallets, who alter the rules to gain power, not for the good of the people, but the power they think they will gain.

From Murdock Todd Cote, Potomac, Mont.

Tags Barack Obama Orrin Hatch
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