Zika is a public health emergency, and Congress should be doing everything in its power to fight the disease right now.
But Congress has gone on recess. The Republican leadership won’t lift a finger. Instead, they have no plans to call us back to work before Labor Day – no chance to give our doctors, scientists, and public health officials the funding they need.
Each day that the Republicans stall, more and more people get sick from Zika. More babies risk being born with heartbreaking head deformities. More adults risk contracting an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system.
The Republican response to the Zika outbreak has been so unbelievable, it almost sounds like the plot of a movie. (A really, really bad movie.)
Back in February, President Obama requested that Congress approve $1.9 billion in emergency Zika funding. That’s the number that doctors, scientists and public health officials said they needed to fight the virus.
For months, the Republicans dragged their feet – until the night in June that House Democrats held their all-night sit-in for a vote on gun violence legislation. At 3:00 AM, while most people were sleeping, Speaker Ryan and the House Republicans jammed through a Zika funding bill – but one loaded with poison pills that he knew would never be passed into law.
Ryan pushed a pathetic, dishonest and flat-out malicious Zika bill:
- The GOP Zika bill would have stolen money from the Ebola response fund, even though we still have 75 Centers for Disease Control staff members on the ground fighting the Ebola outbreak.
- The GOP Zika bill would have gutted the health care exchanges in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
- The GOP Zika bill would have blocked Planned Parenthood from receiving birth control grant money.
- The GOP Zika bill would have rolled back Clean Water Act requirements designed to keep pesticides out of Americans’ drinking water.
- The GOP Zika bill would have cut Senate levels of Department of Veterans Affairs funding by $500 million – money for VA hospital maintenance and raises for VA doctors and nurses.
- And get this: the GOP Zika bill even would have reversed a law that bans the Confederate flag from flying at veterans cemeteries.
I didn’t think that the Republicans could write one bill to hurt women, veterans, Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, AND clean water all at once – while making it easier for racists to fly their flag – but they did it. And when Senate Democrats refused to pass such a sickening bill, the Republicans pointed fingers and said it’s the Democrats’ fault for refusing to compromise.
Last week, a Kentucky reporter asked Republican Leader Mitch McConnell why he wouldn’t just pass a clean bill to fund our country’s Zika response. McConnell said that’s just the way things are done in Washington.
Well that may be the Republican way of doing things in Washington – but that’s not OUR way.
Senate Democrats are ready to return to Washington to pass a Zika funding bill – but we need to turn up the pressure on the Republican majority to make it happen. Join us now and tell the Republicans to stop playing games with Americans’ health.