Congress Again Fails to Pass Zika Funding as Florida Outbreak Grows
Senate Democrats vote down bill that also would have banned money from going to Planned Parenthood.
As the mosquito-borne Zika virus continues to spread in Florida, Congress rejected a funding bill Tuesday that would have put more than $1 billion toward fighting the disease.
The Senate and House of Representatives have been in gridlock over Zika funding for months, and Tuesday, Senate Democrats voted to block the funding bill after Republicans inserted language into it that would prohibit any money from going to Planned Parenthood.
The 52-46 vote came after a seven-week recess for Congress.
Meanwhile, in Florida, 56 cases of locally transmitted cases of Zika have been diagnosed, according to NBC News. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida put the number of Zika-infected women even higher, saying 80 pregnant women in his state have the virus.
Read More: Zika Is Spreading And The US Congress Is Dithering
The Zika virus can cause microcephaly in children whose mothers get the virus while pregnant, and can be transmitted via mosquito bites or through sexual contact.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said Democrats had “filibustered” the funding for Zika, as well as funding for veterans, since the Zika funding was attached to a military spending bill.
“It’s hard to explain why — despite their own calls for funding — Senate Democrats decided to block a bill that could help keep pregnant women and babies safer from Zika,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Read More: CDC: Pregnant Women Should Not Visit Miami Neighborhood
“Our colleagues across the aisle can point to a series of partisan excuses, but the bottom line is this: there is no good explanation for blocking these public health and national security funding bills,” he said.
But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blamed the Republicans for making the bill about Planned Parenthood.
“Republicans were more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying the confederate flag than protecting women and babies from this awful virus,” Reid said. “I can’t make that stuff up.”
While Rs insisted on vacation, Zika spread in the US mainland. Because of Republican inaction, our entire nation is exposed to this scourge.— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) September 6, 2016
President Obama first asked Congress to authorize spending for Zika in February, when he asked for about $1.9 billion to fight the disease, but Congress has not been able to reach an agreement on authorizing the money.
"Basically, we are out of money and we need Congress to act," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said on Aug. 30.
Read More: Zika Spreads to Miami Beach; CDC Issues Travel Warning
Ahead of the vote, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it urgently needed the funding, while U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell called the outbreak and lack of funding “an emergency," according to NBC.
Lawmakers told The Hill after Tuesday’s vote that they hope to have another chance to pass Zika funding later this month on a bipartisan government spending package.
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