As warmer weather arrives in the U.S., the population of Aedes mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus is set to explode. Yet, both the White House and Congress are in a battle over the efforts to prevent the epidemic from spreading to the nation.
The Obama administration has requested 1.9 billion dollars in funds to control mosquitoes and aid research into vaccines and treatment, but one congressman calls it a “slush fund” and states that the President has delayed action by refusing to outline a specific plan of action.
It appears that, as usual, the White House and the opposition in Congress are at loggerheads again, with both sides arranging conflicting schedules for discussions on what to do about a health issue that might have heartbreaking repercussions for American families. Zika virus has been implicated in a number of complications, especially disabling birth deformities in newborns.
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest recently complained that Republicans in the House are writing letters rather than passing legislation that would combat Zika virus in the U.S. However, Appropriations committee chairman Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky says that he is drafting a bill to approve funding before the end of the year; too late to do much about the threat this year. Democratic committee members commented that it was news to them.
Republicans, however, say they’re not averse to providing funds if the White House will provide numbers on how much is needed for efforts to control the virus in 2016. They say that they haven’t received more than a basic outline from the President’s office.
Earnest says the initial funding request has “detailed description laying out precisely what was needed.”
Backers of the funding bill include previous presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, and others like Texas senator John Cornyn (R) have met with CDC director Tom Frieden to discuss the looming crisis, which is expected to affect 30 states where the Aedes mosquito has been found (up from 12 in past estimates). Texas and Florida, Rubio and Cornyn’s home states, are expected to be hardest hit by the virus.
Cornyn tweeted recently that “we will do what it takes to combat this threat”. In the meantime, President Obama plans to use 589 million dollars left over from the Ebola epidemic appropriation to help the U.S. and other countries with mosquito control.
The parties had better get together soon and come up with a plan if they expect to have any effect on the Zika virus’s effect on the U.S. this spring and summer.