By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Whitehouse, the US House of Representatives and the US Senate have been haggling over details in a bill to provide resources for an emergency response to the Zika virus for weeks. Democrats in the Senate scuttled the compromise bill on Tuesday to provide the necessary funding. U.S Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) accused the Democrats of fomenting chaos for political purposes.
Congressman Byrne said in a statement, “Democrats spent months demanding a bill to address the Zika virus, so we passed a bill to help fund prevention, research, and treatment. Now Senate Democrats have blocked the same bill that they spent months demanding. Why? Because they are trying to use the issue to score political points. The Wall Street Journal says it best: “After spending months demanding more funding to combat the Zika virus, they voted down their own priority to foment the chaos they believe will work to their political benefit in the fall.” We shouldn’t turn the Zika virus, which is a real public health concern, into a political football.”
The Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said in his own statement, “This is ridiculous. Senate Democrats, after demanding Zika funding for months and supporting this exact funding level for weeks, now block it to create a political issue. Putting politics before a public health crisis is about as irresponsible as it gets. So much for all those lectures about doing your job.”
The Republican to stop the spread of the Zika virus would have included $1.1 billion more available to address the Zika crisis.
Speaker Ryan’s office said, “This is the same level of funding that previously passed the Senate with unanimous support from Democrats. And by using unspent or unobligated resources, the legislation includes a mix of responsible offsets at the House-passed level.”
The bill also included funding for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs, including additional funding to address the VA’s health care shortages and wait times.
Ryan’s office said that, “Despite claims that this plan is an “attack on women’s health,” it does not prohibit any birth control services. It actually increases funding for community health centers, public health departments, and hospitals.”
Speaker Ryan’s staff said that the bill also provided, “Temporary and targeted mosquito control measures. This plan permits the use of certain pesticides to control the mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus. Despite claims it “endangers clean water protections,” this is a temporary and targeted measure: it is for mosquito control and Zika prevention only, and it expires in 180 days.”
Senate Democrats objected to the fact that none of the extra money was targeted to Planned Parenthood and to the waiver of the EPA approval procedures for the mosquito spraying.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health as of Tuesday, June 28, there have been six confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Alabama.
Zika is spread by bites from an infected mosquito. It is believed to also be spread by sexual contact, blood transfusion, or from mother to child. 80 percent of people infected do not show any symptoms; but it can cause severe symptoms including birth defects. The cases in Alabama are all believed to be due to foreign travel or contact with foreign travelers. It is not believed that Alabama mosquitos are harboring the virus but that could change very rapidly.
Congressman Bradley represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.