Editorials, Opinion Pieces Discuss Congressional Stalemate On U.S. Zika Response

Bloomberg View: Why Congress Needs to Vote Again on Zika
Editorial Board

“…[P]rogress [against Zika] on all fronts — not just drug development but mosquito eradication, diagnostic testing, and research to understand all of Zika’s effects — will be delayed without adequate federal funding. The money that the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have lifted from other parts of their budgets will run out this month. The legislation that failed Tuesday was voted down by Democrats for good reason: It contained deal-killing partisan provisions, including one that would forbid any funding for women’s health from going to Planned Parenthood. Anything that could jeopardize passage of this legislation needs to be stripped from the bill. Zika is too serious, and too dangerous, for politics as usual” (9/7).

Chicago Sun-Times: Stop the games, Congress, and fight Zika
Editorial Board

“…Congress does not have time for political games. … The Centers for Disease Control has shifted millions of dollars from other areas … for its public health response to Zika. But CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said the agency will run out of money … for Zika efforts unless Congress steps up to the plate. Is this really the best one of the world’s richest nations can do when it’s confronted by a public health threat? Although most of the U.S. is at minimal risk for Zika, it is a terrifying disease — and it’s moving in. So why has Congress yet to allocate its first dollar to stop it? Congress will be in session for the next three weeks before everyone heads home for the final campaign push before Election Day. Lawmakers should summon up a much-needed sense of urgency and get Zika funding passed before they go” (9/7).

Los Angeles Times: Congress: What I didn’t do this summer — fund Zika
Editorial Board

“…While you were out campaigning, fundraising, or barbecuing, … the number of Zika cases in the U.S. more than doubled to 2,700, and people infected with the virus have turned up in every state. … [Public health] agencies have done an admirable job keeping the anti-Zika work going despite receiving no extra dollars, borrowing from the funds intended for fighting cancer and Ebola. But they are down to the last few millions, and this shell game can’t last. It’s up to [you, Congress,] now to put aside the reproductive-rights politics and free up money for Zika research and prevention. Congress is expected to take up a measure soon that would be the perfect vehicle: a stop-gap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown. If that bill fails, you will not only endanger unborn babies but also real-live voters” (9/7).

CNN: Congress’ cynical Zika game threatens all Americans
Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations

“…Wednesday night as members of Congress held press conferences, denouncing one another for failing to pass a $1.1 billion plan to fund Zika virus control and research, the city of New York tested the two beams of light that arise dramatically from Ground Zero every September 11, symbolizing the destroyed World Trade Center towers. There is an instructive connection between a nerve cell-assaulting virus and al Qaeda’s attacks on 9/11: They both represent trust, or the lack thereof, with violation of duty to the American people. … Scientists have been forced to muddle through, searching for a vaccine, treatments, diagnostic tools, and basic comprehension of the mysterious virus — all by robbing other disease-research budgets, in hopes of congressional passage of [research funding], which would have been included in this failed bill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has hit the point where juggling money from one disease-fighting budget to Zika won’t work anymore … [The American public’s trust of the government] has been violated, repeatedly. And Wednesday it was violated yet again…” (9/7).

TIME: How to Fight Zika and Cure Our Nation’s Ailing Public Health System
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

“There is an excellent model that demonstrates how the U.S. should reform the current reactive model of public health emergency management — it is the solution found to address disasters established by the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. … [T]he Stafford Act … authorizes the President of the United States, when disaster strikes, to deploy the coordinated efforts and resources of the federal government to save lives and property, and restore communities hit hard by a calamity. … The legislative process has proven itself not to respond in a timely manner to public health threats. The U.S. … needs to have in place mechanisms designed to respond systemically to federally declared public health emergencies and deliver assistance to support state and local governments in carrying out their responsibility to protect the public health. … A Public Health Relief and Emergency Assistance Law is overdue — I urge the leadership of the House and the Senate to work in a bipartisan fashion to put on the desk of the President of the United States a law that will be the cure for the weaknesses in our nation’s public health system when it is faced with public health emergencies” (9/7).

Fox News: Sen. Thom Tillis: We need to fight Zika now. Democrats must stop playing games
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)

“…While President Obama berates Congress to ‘do its job’ and pass Zika funding that his own party is filibustering, the reality is that right now his administration is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars that can immediately be used to fight Zika. The only rationale behind the president’s refusal to make use of those funds is to … place blame on congressional Republicans. This is a dangerous game to play. While we may have close to sufficient funds to combat the Zika virus for the rest of the year, the long-term consequences of continued Democratic obstructionism of Zika funding will be severe…” (9/7).

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