While campaigning in Florida on Tuesday, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine attacked congressional Republicans for failing to pass a funding bill that would have directed $1.1 billion toward research to treat and prevent the Zika virus.
According to the Orlando Sentinel:
Kaine . . . called for federal action on fighting the Zika virus, which officials on Monday said had reached South Florida via mosquitoes.
Kaine said Congress should pass a $1.1 billion bill to combat Zika without what he called the “poison pill” of anti-abortion language added by House Republicans.
“Congress should not be in recess when Zika is advancing,” he said.
In reality, it was Senate Democrats who refused to pass the bill, and there’s no “poison pill” to be found anywhere inside it. Instead, the Democratic leadership is balking because the bill does not specifically earmark a portion of funding for Planned Parenthood.
While most of the funding outlined in the bill would go to mosquito prevention and vaccine research, a small segment is dedicated to public-health efforts. According to Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democrats chose to block the entire bill because none of this small portion was earmarked for Planned Parenthood.
“The conference committee increased health-care block-grant funding and provided guidance on who could receive the funding,” Stewart tells National Review. “Planned Parenthood was not listed as a potential recipient, and Democrats want them to be explicitly listed as a recipient — even though the president’s initial request didn’t ask for any.”
Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer held a press conference attempting to explain their decision shortly after leading an effort to kill the bill.
Reid claimed that women would have nowhere to go to obtain birth control under the bill, but, in fact, nothing in the legislation would cut any federal funding currently going to Planned Parenthood. It simply does not add more funding in the context of treating Zika.
Planned Parenthood’s executive director, Dawn Laguens, spoke alongside Reid and Schumer, implying that it is more important for Planned Parenthood to receive direct funding under the bill than it is to pass a bill quickly.
The Democratic leadership is balking because the bill does not specifically earmark a portion of funding for Planned Parenthood.
A letter from Planned Parenthood to the Senate offices prior to the most recent vote stated that “a vote against this bill will be seen as a vote for women’s health care.” But a vote against the bill is actually vote against women’s health care, particularly if the women in question have contracted the Zika virus. And, even from the perspective of Senate Democrats, there is no rational objection to the bill given that Planned Parenthood still would receive as much federal funding as it did before the Zika virus became an issue.
But a compromise from Senate Democrats seems unlikely, given their latest statements. “We would love for them to end that filibuster and pass the bill, but it doesn’t sound like they’re prepared to do that,” Stewart tells National Review.
#share#Meanwhile, Florida politicians have honed in with laser-like focus on the question of research funding — the state this week reported 14 local Zika cases, all in the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood. These are the first cases originating from mosquito bites that occurred in the U.S., as opposed to cases related to international travel.
Marco Rubio held a press conference Wednesday morning in Doral, Fla., emphasizing the need for immediate congressional action to pass a bill funding research and prevention.
The Florida senator said he found it “inexcusable that Congress waited for months” to move on the issue and lamented that Zika has become “a political volleyball.”
Rubio said that Senate Democrats’ objections to the bill are not enough to justify voting against it. “There is absolutely nothing in the . . . bill that the House is insisting on that has anything to do with Planned Parenthood,” he explained. “I think to be, quite frank, they are making it up because they want a political issue.”
He also suggested that the White House has up to $300 million available to fund Zika research immediately, but that the administration might be withholding the money for political reasons.
#related#Bill Nelson, the other U.S. senator from the state, has been pushing for the Senate to reconvene and pass an emergency spending bill. Complaining about the lack of response from McConnell, Nelson is said to have told a reporter, “Wait until a mosquito bites one of the people who is traveling to Kentucky and then he gets a transmitted case in Kentucky, then we’ll get action.”
Florida representative Patrick Murphy, a Democrat challenging Rubio for a seat in the U.S. Senate, has been using language similar to that of Kaine and Reid, claiming on his campaign website that “Republican leaders are proposing limiting access to contraception” and “prioritizing partisan attacks on women’s health.”
Senate Democrats likely will continue blaming Republicans’ opposition to “women’s health” for the political stalemate over Zika-research funding, but the real roadblock is Democrats’ absolute dedication to funding the abortion giant Planned Parenthood instead of actual women’s health care.