Senate Democrats Block Zika Bill Over Planned Parenthood Fight

    At least 17 babies in the U.S. have been born with severe birth defects linked to Zika, which is carried by mosquitos. (coniferconifer / CC-BY-2.0)

    At least 17 babies in the U.S. have been born with severe birth defects linked to Zika, which is carried by mosquitos. (coniferconifer / CC-BY-2.0)

Senate Democrats again blocked a $1.1 billion plan to fight the Zika virus Tuesday, demanding that Republicans drop an effort to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving money to fight the mosquito-borne disease.

The New York Times reports:

Democrats, who had essentially blocked the same legislation in late June, had enough votes Tuesday to prevent Congress from moving emergency funding public health experts say is desperately needed as they prepare for the possibility that Zika will spread to other states along the gulf coast. The vote was 52 to 46, and Republicans needed 60 votes to advance the bill.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, said that although efforts to fight the virus had produced encouraging results, the problem was far from over.

“It’s hard to explain why, despite their own calls for funding, Democrats would block plans to keep women and babies safe from Zika,” Mr. McConnell said before the vote.

Because of the standoff, lawmakers say they expect to address the funding issue by the end of the month as part of a must-pass, stopgap spending measure. That legislation would be intended to keep the government funded because it seems increasingly likely that Congress will not pass its annual spending bills by then.

But that may not be soon enough, some health experts say. Calls for additional funding gained urgency last week when Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced that his agency has used almost all of the $222 million it was allocated to fight the virus. He warned that some plans, such as a mosquito control program in hard-hit Puerto Rico, would have to be axed without more money soon.

As of late August, there were more than 16,800 cases of Zika in the United States, including Puerto Rico, where the concentration of cases was highest. The potential remains for many more cases to develop before peak mosquito season ends in November.

Continue reading.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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