Congress Returns To Work, Blocks $1.1 Billion Zika Virus Research And Prevention Fund Bill
By Allison Nielsen, State News // September 7, 2016
The bill failed 52-46, eight votes short
ABOVE VIDEO: Back in mid-July, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., calls on Senate Democrats to abandon their strategy to block $1.1 billion to help fund Zika research and prevention. (Sen. Wicker Archives)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress has finally headed back to work in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, and one of the first things lawmakers did was block a $1.1 billion bill to fight the Zika virus rampaging through the Sunshine State.
The bill failed 52-46. The bill needed 60 votes to pass, but Democrats were hesitant to greenlight the bill since it had restrictions for Planned Parenthood wrapped into the package.
Lawmakers left Washington seven weeks ago without a Zika funding package, and the virus’ impact has since intensified in Florida. Mosquitoes are now transmitting the virus in parts of downtown Miami.
The clock is still ticking to create a temporary solution to combat Zika, and tensions are at an all-time high.
Time is not on lawmakers’ sides. Last week, Centers for Disease Control director Tom Frieden said the agency is nearly out of the $222 million allocated to help fight the virus.
With the money quickly running out, national legislators will need to act quickly to create a funding package for the Zika virus as soon as possible.
Desperation for a solution for Zika funding has reached an all-time high and concerns are amplified by a time crunch — only four weeks remain until lawmakers will once again recess.
Gov. Rick Scott has already allocated $26 million in state funding for mosquito spraying, testing and other methods of preparedness. Much of the funding and virus prevention efforts have happened in the Miami-Dade area, where the virus is the most concentrated. Mosquito-borne transmission has only occurred in Miami.
Much of the funding has gone to the Miami-Dade area, where local transmissions started occurring in July. The transmissions initially began in the Wynwood area and then spread to Miami Beach.
The Miami area still has the highest number of local infections, but the virus has been found in other parts of Florida as well.
Since February, the virus has spread throughout the state, with new cases emerging in Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.
The Zika virus is not particularly harmful, but can cause Dengue fever-like symptoms in the infected. The virus is, however, especially problematic for pregnant women, since it can cause birth defects and microcephaly in fetuses.
The virus can also cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome, an uncommon sickness where the immune system attacks the nerves in the body. The syndrome can cause temporary paralysis and can affect the muscles of the body that control breathing.
Lawmakers had said earlier they believed money for the Zika fight could be thrown into a short-term spending provision included in an overall budget package which has to be hashed out by Oct. 1.
“I assume that it would be wrapped in the year-end fiscal negotiations that would lead to some sort of continuing resolution. That’s my assumption,” Senate majority whip John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“It would be grossly irresponsible not to deal with it. Of course it’s been pretty grossly irresponsible to filibuster it.”
Gov. Scott was scheduled to visit the nation’s capital city to request immediate assistance on fighting the virus, but ultimately stayed in Florida to help with Hurricane Hermine recovery efforts.
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