Yesterday the CDC confirmed that the Zika virus does indeed cause birth defects. “There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly,” the CDC director announced. This confirmation of Zika’s threat, said the New York Times, “may increase pressure on Congress to allocate more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding that President Obama requested for prevention and treatment of the outbreak.”
Then again, maybe not. Here is Steve Benen explaining what’s happened to the White House budget request so far:
Congressional Republicans responded to the request by telling the administration to use $600 million that had been allocated to combat Ebola. The trouble, of course, is that this money (a) is far short of the $1.9 billion needed, and (b) still being used to address Ebola in West Africa.
….Roll Call reported that Congress did pass a bill, intended to create incentives for drug makers to speed work on Zika treatments, but it allocates none of $1.9 billion the administration says is necessary. It’s reached the point at which the White House has stopped being polite and started getting real.
….In response, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) complained that the White House hasn’t given Congress enough information on what, specifically, the $1.9 billion would be used for, fearing that the administration’s plan amounted to the creation of a “slush fund” with money that “could be used for any purpose.”
Well, I think the money is going to be used to fight the spread of Zika. Jesus. The formal 25-page appropriations request is here, and it sure doesn’t look like a slush fund. It looks like a detailed request for specific funding to fight the spread of Zika.
Does every single thing have to turn into a partisan food fight? If Rogers has different ideas about how to fight Zika, that’s fine. Let’s hear ’em. But this is precisely the kind of thing that everyone, liberal and conservative alike, agrees the federal government should do. So for God’s sake, let’s do it.