A recent letter writer asks my position on Zika funding and why Congress has not acted.
With my support, the House voted in June to appropriate $1.1 billion to combat Zika – the result of a bi-partisan conference agreement. There was no debate on the measure, because it was taken up on the day House Democrats staged their sit-in, physically blocking access to the microphones and shouting down any who tried to speak from the well. Nevertheless, the bill passed on a vote of 239-171, with most Democrats opposing.
The Senate tried three times to take up the bill, but each time was blocked by Senate Democrats on a procedural vote. (It requires 60 votes to consider most legislation in the Senate). They have held Zika funding hostage over two issues.
First, environmental extremists object to funding mosquito abatement. Mosquitoes are the principal vector of this disease and abatement is critical to slowing its spread. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this is “the most effective way to prevent and control mosquito-borne disease” like the Zika virus.
Second, abortion extremists object to appropriating $95 million in Social Services Block Grant funds "for health services provided by public health departments, hospitals, or reimbursed through public health plans." Why? Because it doesn’t specifically earmark money directly to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is in no way restricted from applying for these grants, and apparently only one Planned Parenthood affiliate in Puerto Rico currently fails to meet criteria for funding, and in that case, other clinics are eligible and available.
The House has acted, Senate Republicans have acted, but Senate Democrats continue to hold up funding to appease the environmental and abortion extremists in their ranks. Sadly, if the Senate had acted on the House bill sent to them in June, we might have been on top of this disease by now.