USCongress Approves $622M Bill To Fight Zika

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Republicans have approved a $622 million bill to combat the Zika virus threat in the USA, setting off what is predicted to be challenging negotiations with the White House and the Senate.

The House voted 241-184 as Democrats opposed it with a veto Threat from the White House and a statement from a government health official saying the bill would not be able to do enough to respond to Zika, says a report from Fox News.

“It’s just not enough,” Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said of the bill. “It doesn’t give Americans the protections they deserve, and with every day of delay it gets harder to do this.” Frieden adds that he’s “optimistic that at the end of the day they’re going to do the right thing on Zika.”

President Barack Obama had requested $1.9 billion three months ago to address growing concerns over Zika, which is spread by mosquito bites and sexual contact, and has been known to cause severe birth deformities.

The Senate is pushing through with a $1.1 billion plan this week and have agreed with Obama that the funds should be put in the budget deficit rather than “cut” out of other programs’ allocations.

Democrats and the White House have previously criticized Republicans for stalling on the Zika issue, but polls say the ongoing politics is no match for public fear the virus has caused. Leaders see that it is important to act on combating Zika as summer, which is mosquito season, is fast approaching.

Representative Rosa DeLauro says,

We can stop this crisis before it gets worse, but we have to act now and fully fund the President’s request. Months from now, when the results of our inaction become apparent, we will ask ourselves, ‘Why did we delay? Why did we wait?’

The House bill only provides one-third of the requested funds and limits the use of the funds to the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30. It takes from the 2014 funds against the Ebola virus to offset the additional money for this Zika outbreak.

Frieden, in an interview with The Associated Press, says that the House measure would limit the CDC’s ability to track women and babies with the virus in the coming years, hamper efforts to fight the mosquitoes that spread it and roadblock the development of better diagnostic methods.

Obama put almost $600 million in previous appropriations, mostly funds left from Ebola funding, towards Zika when Congress hesitated to act. Republicans had been pushing for this funding re-appropriation as the first step in funding Zika and say that the pending measure will be enough until September 30 of this budget year.

On Tuesday, the Senate advanced a $1.1 billion measure against Zika that was wholly supported by Democrats, even if it was less than what the White House had requested. It will be added to an unrelated spending bill, which will become a problem as the House bill will proceed as a stand-alone measure.

The White House has deemed Congress’ plan as inadequate and has threatened to veto it, an article from Reuters confirms. However, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that, “I don’t have a veto threat to issue.”

The Senate measure and Obama’s request are very similar in terms of the amount to be spent on Zika. The difference is that the president wants the estimated $600 million back which was taken from the Ebola funds and other projects. Those funds are currently being used to conduct research programs on Zika and its effects, form response teams to prevent the virus from spreading and help other countries fight Zika.


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