With 42 Floridians catching Zika, there is concern there and in neighboring states that the virus could spread. In Congress, both Democrats and Republicans say they want to provide federal funds to combat the virus. And yet, no funds have been approved.
The culprit, as is so often the case, can be blamed on partisan gridlock.
Funding for combatting Zika is contained in one of the thirteen appropriations, or spending, bills that Congress must pass every year to fund the government. This bill contains funding not only for Zika efforts, but also for other government functions.
The House of Representatives passed this legislation with a vote of 239-17 on June 23. Senate Democrats, however, are refusing to allow the bill come to a vote in that chamber. Although a majority of Senators voted to proceed with a final vote in late June by a vote of 52-48, that vote was not enough to reach the 60-vote threshold to overcome the Democrats’ filibuster.
Why are they blocking the bill?
It’s not because of the Zika funding, but because of the other items in the bill. Among their issues of concern:
• Defunding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare – the legislation would remove $500 million in funding for this program
• Defunding Planned Parenthood
• Allowing wider use of pesticides to destroy mosquitoes
• Continuing to allow Confederate flags to fly in military cemeteries
Republicans contend that Democrats are so fixated on these unrelated issues that they will allow Zika to spread in order to protect Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. Democrats, on the other hand, say that Republicans are holding Zika funding hostage to get their way on these contentious social issues.
This situation is why Congress recessed for its summer break without coming to agreement on an issue that both Republicans and Democrats, in essence, agree on.
Should the Senate pass this legislation, even with these controversial provisions? Or should Senate Democrats insist that Republicans remove the contentious sections of the spending bill before Zika funding is approved?