Zika is on the move in the United States, infecting mothers and causing birth defects in our children. That’s why I was appalled to read Congresswoman Diana DeGette’s attempt to shift the blame in these pages by blaming Republicans for holding up funding. Let me set the record straight.
House Republicans have worked diligently to address the threat, sending two separate Zika funding bills to the Senate for approval before the Centers for Disease Control runs out of money at the end of September. The latest bill allocated $1.1 billion for the Zika fight, enough to develop a vaccine and control the disease-carrying mosquito population.
Unfortunately, Senate Democrats, with the cheers of their House colleagues, have blocked every attempt to address this crisis. Their intransigence puts future generations at risk and leaves us asking: Why block such vital funding?
Their complaint stems from the bill’s plan to fund eight community health centers instead of one Planned Parenthood affiliate on the island of Puerto Rico. As Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) pointed out, those community health centers offered healthcare to 300,000 people last year, providing “not just reproductive health care for moms, but also prenatal care for pregnant women, and newborn and pediatric care for their at-risk children.” In other words, these community health centers are fully equipped to offer a full-range of care to mothers and children threatened by Zika. The Planned Parenthood affiliate meanwhile served only 8,000 people last year and offers fewer services.
Let’s call this gripe what it is. To block Zika spending over a Planned Parenthood earmark is to sacrifice pregnant mothers, future parents, and our nation’s children on the altar of a hyper-partisan pet project that happens to give millions in donations to the Democratic Party.
Republicans have delivered a clean Zika funding bill that includes offsets. We face a $19 trillion national debt and, if we can’t offset our Zika funding, then we won’t have a functional economy and tax base from which to fight Zika and every other public health battle we’ll face in the next century.
Before Zika ravages more of our children, I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to set aside their petty political pranks. Congress must deliver a bill to the president’s desk, and we must do so soon.