Many communities around the country are already reporting finding West Nile virus in mosquito samples. A man in Arizona is suffering from West Nile virus-related paralysis with his legs along with problems paying his medical and rehabilitation bills, even with health insurance.
Few communities in the United States have started testing their mosquito samples for the Zika virus, and none seems to have reported finding a mosquito carrying the virus.
Outbreaks are unpredictable, and it could be that the Zika microbes will shake their viral envelope molecules sadly when they look at the United States, turn around, and go back to Brazil, all on their own.
But the idea that members of Congress could leave for the campaign trail, or vacation, in a few weeks, and that President Obama could go about his normal life without having signed some kind of Zika response funding measure, is unacceptable.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been using about $600 million in Ebola response money to cover the cost of helping communities control the types of mosquitoes that could spread Zika.
Apparently, Congress is still trying to get Obama to sign a bill that would package $1.1 billion in Zika funding with a $543 million cut in Affordable Care Act funding and keep Planned Parenthood from offering birth control services related to Zika. Another provision under consideration could allow or block efforts to fly the Confederate flags in veterans’ cemeteries.
Maybe congressional leaders can make a reasonable case for putting the Planned Parenthood provision in the bill. At least that has something to do with obstetric care.
It’s possible that a good forensic accountant can show how the Obama administration has exaggerated Zika response funding needs, and that the administration should have asked for less cash.
But what does Affordable Care Act funding have to do with preventing a disease that can ruin babies’ lives, lead to millions of dollars in medical and long-term care costs for babies born with Zika-related disabilities, and, possibly, lead to permanent paralysis in some adults?
The idea seems to be that Congress should find ways to pay for new expenditures, but, in this case we all ought to be on the hook for paying for the new Zika response expenditure. We all started out as babies. We all benefited from being born free from the effects of a brain-destroying disease. We ought to be willing to chip in about $4 each to fight Zika.
If Congress needs to show it can take on Obama, there must be some other bills that it can use to stand up to him.
If it has evidence that the administration is asking for too much money, it should tailor the amount of cash it provides to fit the need.
But, if the country really needs a certain amount of cash to get Zika under control, then Congress should either make that amount of cash available in a clean bill, without irrelevant poison pill provisions that make the bill impossible for Obama to sign, or members of Congress and Obama should agree to turn off the air conditioning in the U.S. Capitol and the White House and sit at their desks, silently, without reading or using mobile devices, until they figure out how to reach a compromise.
Maybe, once the temperature gets to about 85 degrees, their hearts will thaw enough that they can think less about who’s boss and more about protecting babies.
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