Weekly Columns

Democrats Blocking Zika Bills as the Virus Spreads

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Washington, August 10, 2016 | Tiffany Haverly (202-226-8072) | comments

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the first cases of locally-acquired Zika had been diagnosed in Miami, Florida. Up to this point, patients diagnosed with Zika in the United States had been infected while traveling, including 23 Tennesseans as of August 1. The cases diagnosed in Florida last week, however, were acquired locally. This is no longer just a concern to travelers; the Zika virus has arrived in the United States and we need to take action. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats continue to play politics, casting blame on Republicans in Congress for inaction while failing to acknowledge how they’ve repeatedly blocked commonsense proposals to prepare for the inevitable spread of Zika.

As an OBGYN, I am extremely concerned for patients who have been diagnosed with the Zika virus, especially pregnant women. Pregnant woman with the virus can pass it along to their unborn child, which can cause serious birth defects like Microcephaly and other brain defects. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s brain does not fully develop during pregnancy, thus causing the head to be smaller than average. The severity of Microcephaly varies; however, babies can experience seizures, have difficulty feeding, suffer from cognitive disorders, hearing and vision problems and other developmental delays.

President Obama has requested Congress provide $1.9 billion to fight Zika, but what the president failed to make clear is that the administration has already repurposed nearly $600 million from unused Ebola funds to help combat the Zika virus. In July, it was reported that only about one-sixth of that money had actually been spent despite CDC predictions this virus would make its way to the United States. Additionally, after Senate Democrats unanimously supported providing $1.1 billion in funding, they have now twice blocked a funding bill that would provide that same amount to help fight Zika, further proving President Obama and Democrats in Congress are more interested in playing politics than providing the resources necessary to address this serious public health issue.

Senate Democrats have also held up attempts to ease the regulatory burden on mosquito spraying. On May 24, the House passed H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act. This bill would make it easier for state and local officials to utilize pesticides to kill mosquitoes and protect against future mosquito infestations. Currently, federal regulatory barriers have made the implementation of mosquito control strategies very costly and time-consuming. This bill will modify the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act to clarify Congressional intent concerning regulating the use of pesticides in or near navigable waters. The bill would also continue the practice of FIFRA regulating the safe use of pesticides to protect Americans and the environment. This bill targets specific locations in an effort to prevent Zika and control the mosquito population, but the bill has yet to be considered in the Senate.

Just last week, the Wall Street Journal brought attention to the president and Senate Democrats’ strategy on Zika stating that “the root cause of Washington’s Zika pathology is Democrats who are exploiting the virus to score political points.” Well, Mr. President, it’s time to stop playing politics with peoples’ lives. It’s shameful for President Obama and Democrats in Congress to continue slow-walking the use of available resources and rejecting commonsense proposals to provide the tools we need to prepare for and stop the spread of Zika in the United States. This needs to stop, and I sincerely hope the president and his allies will decide to put the American people before their political agendas.

Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.
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