House votes to loosen EPA pesticide rules to fight Zika

House votes to loosen EPA pesticide rules to fight Zika
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The House voted along party lines Tuesday to approve a bill that would loosen pesticide regulations in the name of fighting the Zika virus.  

Democrats almost unanimously opposed the bill, which was recently retooled by House GOP leaders as an effort to prevent the spread of Zika. The final tally was 258-156, with all but 23 Democrats opposed to the bill.

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The bill, which loosens environmental protections on pesticides and other chemicals, was called the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act until earlier this month.

Democrats have accused Republicans of seizing on the Zika virus to pass a years-old bill that would make it easier for corporations to skirt regulations.

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), the bill’s sponsor, said it would help to eliminate a “duplicative and unnecessary permitting regulation” that has made it more difficult for some local governments to spread for mosquitoes.

In a statement opposing the bill on Monday, the White House said nearly all state and local officials spraying for mosquitoes are already allowed to use chemicals “as needed to respond to Zika virus concerns and do not require any additional authorization.”

House GOP leaders brought the bill to the floor last week under a fast-track process typically reserved for non-controversial legislation. The bill failed because it had less than the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

The House has now considered the same bill five times, under four different “guises,” according to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

He and other House Democrats accused the GOP of putting forward the bill deceptively, because it was not created with the intent of killing mosquitoes to prevent the spread of Zika.

White House officials announced Monday that the administration “strongly opposes” the bill, but fell short of a formal veto threat.

“Rebranding legislation that removes important Clean Water Act protections for public health and water quality is not an appropriate avenue for addressing the serious threat to the Nation that the Zika virus poses,” the statement reads.

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), a vocal critic of the bill, said adding more pesticides into bodies of water could impact the same pregnant women that lawmakers are trying to protect from the Zika virus.

“I am very concerned about the effect of these pesticides on the health of our rivers, on our streams, and especially the drinking water supplies of all our citizens, including pregnant women,” Napolitano said.