Concerns over the Zika virus are leading constituents in affected areas to push their Republican members of Congress for action. This is not the first time there have been significant calls for action on Zika, but this past summer, Congressional Republicans left for a seven week recess without doing anything to address the growing crisis.
Forty-one Democratic U.S. senators on Thursday urged Republican congressional leaders to summon lawmakers back from their summer recess to vote on emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, but Republicans blamed Democrats for the inaction in Congress. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan accused Democrats of obstructing the funding and said President Barack Obama’s administration has failed to spend existing funds to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne virus.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control shifted $44 million of its federal funding towards research on the mosquito-borne disease after Congress failed to allocate any funds itself. As a result, city and state offices have lost the critical funds they need in order to prevent the spread of Zika at the local level.
The Senate is poised to vote a $1.1 billion measure passed by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives, but President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has vowed to veto that plan, which falls short of his $1.9 billion request.
Local health departments do not have months to wait for Republicans to fund the Zika fight. In July, the CDC will shift $44 million of its emergency response funds to fight Zika unless the funds are allocated by Congress, an action that would have crippling effects at the local level.