For the third time, Democrats in the Senate have blocked a bill that would have provided federal funds to combat the spread of the Zika virus. Supporters were unable to muster the 60 votes necessary to end debate and move forward to a vote on final passage. As The Hill observes, “Democrats nearly unanimously voted to block the $1.1 billion funding bill, which was approved by House Republicans in June.” The bill would have also “temporarily waived duplicative permitting requirements for anti-mosquito pesticides,” notes The Wall Street Journal.
As The Hill notes, “The Zika funding bill was attached to next year’s spending bill for military construction and veterans affairs, typically one of the least controversial spending bills in either chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that Democrats had ‘filibustered’ the funding for both Zika and veterans.”
Earlier, the Obama administration was criticized for illegally diverting money that could have been used to fight Zika to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, and for federal red tape that makes it more difficult for local governments to fight Zika.
The Wall Street Journal says that “bureaucratic intransigence” is “partly to blame for the slow development of a Zika vaccine.” Scientist and former FDA official Dr. Henry Miller says that “Interdepartmental buck-passing, big-government sloth, and anti-science ideology are allowing a needless spread of the disease.” He laments that the Obama administration’s response to Zika has been more about politics than public health.
The Obama administration has proposed an even bigger, $1.9 billion appropriation to fund anti-Zika efforts both at home and overseas. Critics of the Obama administration argue that it already had money it could have used, but refused to use, to fight Zika. The Wall Street Journal says “the Obama administration” is “sitting on money and methods to reduce the Zika outbreak,” in order to “use the virus as a political bludgeon” to get what it wants.
Writing in the New York Post, former Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey argued that if “the president is serious about fighting Zika instead of Republicans, he can dip into ObamaCare’s $2 billion-a-year public health slush fund. Right now a lot of that money pays for nanny-state follies like videos showing how to exercise at your desk and (ineffective) healthy eating programs.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) noted earlier this year that federal agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services had $80 billion in unobligated funds at their disposal, which he said could have been redirected to fighting Zika, with likely Congressional assent. As he put it, “This is exactly the type of authority the Obama administration asked for [and got] in 2009 during the height of the H1N1 virus scare.”
McCaughey says the Obama administration is fostering Zika’s spread through anti-science policies: “Tragically, Obama’s Food and Drug Administration is delaying the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to kill Zika-carrying bugs, [even] though the World Health Organization endorses this new technology, which can wipe out 90 percent of Zika mosquitoes in months.”