Chances of Zika funding plummet ahead of recess

Cameron Lancaster

The prospect of Congress approving any new Zika virus funding before a seven-week recess is bleak, with both parties ready to blame the other for the stalemate.

Public health experts have warned that the mosquitoes that carry the virus, which is known to cause birth defects, will increase in the hot summer months, worsening the virus’ spread.

{mosads}Senate Republicans on Wednesday reiterated that they will not make changes to their Zika funding bill and will simply bring it up again to give Democrats another chance to vote for it before the break. 

Democrats, meanwhile, repeated their vow to oppose the measure, leaving no clear path forward. Democrats blocked the deal last week.

“This is a conference report. It cannot be changed,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday. “And so I’m going to give our Senate Democratic colleagues another opportunity to do the right thing.”

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said: “Senate Democrats rejected the outrageous Republican bill and will do so again.” 

Democrats object to language in the $1.1 billion Republican measure that prevents funds from going to Planned Parenthood, loosens Clean Water Act rules on pesticides, and is paid for with cuts to ObamaCare and Ebola funding. 

They have called on Republicans to negotiate a bipartisan bill, but Republicans have refused. 

Republicans counter by pointing out that Democrats long stressed the urgency of new funding but are now opposing a funding measure.

McConnell left open the possibility that he would only bring the GOP measure up for another vote at the end of next week, essentially leaving no time for negotiations after another failed vote. 

“I’ll let you know,” he said, when asked about the timing of the vote. 

Democrats are already preparing to blame Republicans. 

Asked what Democrats will tell their constituents when they return home without funding, Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat, said, “We’re going to say they played games.” 

“We passed a bipartisan bill in the Senate,” he added. “They had a chance to pass it before we left.”

The Senate previously agreed on a bipartisan $1.1 billion measure that did not have the extraneous controversial provisions, but that measure could not get through the House, given House Republicans’ insistence that the measure be paid for. 

Durbin said constituents are fed up with both parties. 

“I don’t think they’re going to like anybody to be honest with you, Democrats or Republicans and the polls reflect that,” he said. “But it is a frustrating situation, when a disaster, in this case, a public health disaster, is being treated so cavalierly, so politically, by the Republican leadership.”


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