• Con­gress is on va­ca­tion, but Zika isn’t

Law­mak­ers take the sum­mer off as the virus may be mak­ing in­roads into the U.S.

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS -

Con­gress is giv­ing the Aedes ae­gypti mos­quito ev­ery chance to gain an ad­van­tage in the fight against the Zika virus. No one knows ex­actly when the first such mos­quito will trans­mit the virus in­side the U.S., but it might hap­pen be­fore law­mak­ers man­age to pass a bill to pay for its pre­ven­tion and con­trol.

On June 28, Se­nate Democrats blocked a Re­pub­li­can plan to partly fund Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s re­quest—is­sued more than four months ago—for money to fight Zika. The White House had asked for al­most $1.9 bil­lion to help states con­trol mos­qui­toes, cre­ate faster tests for the virus, and de­velop a vac­cine, among other things. Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans of­fered $1.1 bil­lion, with strings at­tached.

One of them was that none of the money go to women’s health clin­ics such as those run by Planned Par­ent­hood. That’s non­sen­si­cal, since Zika is a dis­ease that can be sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted and its worst ef­fects can be pre­vented with birth con­trol. Repub­li­cans also pro­posed other du­bi­ous con­di­tions, such as loos­en­ing Clean Wa­ter Act re­stric­tions on some pes­ti­cides and cut­ting the bud­get for Oba­macare.

Nat­u­rally, the par­ti­sans dis­agree over which side is more heart­less in its dis­re­gard for preg­nant women and their ba­bies at risk of de­vel­op­ing Zika-re­lated mi­cro­cephaly. Mean­while, as leg­is­la­tors have dithered, 265 preg­nant women in the U.S. have been in­fected with the virus. Zika-re­lated de­fects are be­lieved to have been found in at least four new­borns and to have caused four lost preg­nan­cies. And mos­qui­toes con­tinue spread­ing the virus in dozens of other coun­tries.

It’s pos­si­ble that Con­gress’s lat­est fail­ure is merely pos­tur­ing—that law­mak­ers have made their par­ti­san points and plan to ap­prove fund­ing for Zika this month. If so, it’s small com­fort. Con­gress may take most of the sum­mer off, but A. ae­gypti doesn’t. <BW>

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