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Why Congress Rejects Zika Virus Funding

Update Date: Apr 29, 2016 04:20 AM EDT
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The discussion over Zika virus funding heated as congressional Democrats and the White House put the pressure on Republicans to release the money that is intended to fight off the virus, which is now spreading and bound to the United States.

"This is an emergency if there ever were an emergency," said Harry Reid. He blamed GOP senators for a "continual pattern of constant Republican gridlock" that is blocking the fund's swift passage, as reported by CNN.

"The Senate should not leave this week without addressing the legislation that deals with Zika," Reid declared.

Budget Chief Shaun Donovan and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, two of the White House officials, sent letters to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to complain that the Congress just shrugged their shoulders, 64 days following the $1.9 billion that was being asked by the administration.

The letters they have sent also warned about the increase in public health threat and noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 891 confirmed cases of Zika in the United States and its territories along with the 81 pregnant women as of April 20.

The Republicans in Congress said that the money is not there and pushing the Health and Human Services Department to put the left over from the $7 billion allocated in preventing Ebola to fight Zika. However, it is reported that there is no left over funding as it will be used to prevent another Ebola outbreak. They were still able to get $589 million, but said it was not enough, according to NBC News.

"The American people are counting on the Congress to act. And instead we have gotten bureaucratic excuses from Congress as to why they have done nothing," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. "This is an emergency," he added.

According to Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, he has been working to get a deal with Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat. Blunt is a Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee.

"There's never been a debate about whether to do this, but we need to do it in the right way," Blunt said. "Zika remains a public health concern that we should take seriously. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the administration to fully understand the funding needs to ensure we provide what is necessary to protect Americans," he added.

On the other hand, Murray is hoping for a deal within days. "We need to get an emergency funding agreement through the Senate this week, send it to the House, and then get this package signed into law by the President to respond to the most urgent and pressing needs involved in the Zika response effort," she said.

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