Congress Once Again Fails to Fund the Fight Against Zika

Democrats blocked the latest bill after Republicans inserted a provision denying funds to Planned Parenthood.

Lynne Sladky/AP

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


The fight against the Zika virus stalled in Congress on Tuesday when Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill they said was stuffed with unpalatable measures, including a provision that barred Planned Parenthood from the emergency funding. With the $1.1 billion funding bill now dead in the water, lawmakers could fail to reach a compromise before they leave for a seven-week recess next month.

It has already been more than four months since President Barack Obama first submitted a request for $1.9 billion in emergency funds to combat the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to devastating birth defects.

Congress’ failure to respond to the crisis drew criticism Tuesday from the American Public Health Association. “We know Zika could cause hundreds of US infants to be born with preventable birth defects—if we don’t intervene,” the organization’s executive director, Georges Benjamin, said in a press release. He added that the latest bill was “both late and inadequate.” Obama criticized Congress for its lack of progress last month, saying, “They should not be going off on recess before this is done.”

The GOP bill passed the House last Thursday under unusual circumstances: The vote took place over the shouts of Democrats holding an all-night sit-in in an attempt to force a vote on gun control. Democrats sharply criticized the Zika bill for preventing emergency funding from going to the women’s health organization Planned Parenthood, a favorite target of conservatives, even though the Zika crisis affects pregnant women. They also objected to a provision weakening regulations on pesticides.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday described the bill as “nothing more than a goodie bag for the fringes of the Republican Party.” Republicans, meanwhile, blamed Democrats for the holdup. “It’s really puzzling to hear Democrats claim to be advocates for women’s health measures when they are the ones trying to block the Zika legislation,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Tuesday’s vote was 52 to 48, short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

As the partisan squabble stretches on, the Zika crisis is only growing. The disease has spread quickly in Puerto Rico, where the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this month it could result in “dozens to hundreds of infants born with microcephaly in the coming year.” Nearly 2,000 cases have been reported in US territories, the vast majority of them contracted locally, according to the CDC. A total of 820 cases have been reported in US states. One of those was contracted in a lab; all the rest resulted from travel.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate