Yesterday marked a milestone of sorts: it was 100 days ago that the Obama administration urged the Republican Congress to pass a $1.9 billion package to address the Zika virus threat. So far, GOP lawmakers have decided they don’t like the request, instead approving separate, smaller emergency bills about which Republicans still disagree.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) may be a bitter partisan, but even he’s fed up with his party’s negligence.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott pleaded with President Obama on Wednesday to provide his state with mosquito traps, insecticide and other gear they need to fight the Zika virus, saying it is “profoundly disappointing” that Congress failed to pass a funding package before the start of hurricane season.Zika causes serious birth defects, and the Republican governor said his state’s hot-and-wet climate is about to get a lot worse, allowing disease-carrying insects to flourish.“Despite repeated calls for action, Congress has failed to act and now they are on vacation,” Mr. Scott wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama.
The Republican governor added, “Florida needs action from the federal government now.”
Unfortunately, “now” doesn’t appear to be much of an option. The Republican-led Senate approved a $1.1 billion package, while the Republican-led House passed a bill about half as large. Under the current Republican approach, it may be “well into the summer, or even longer” before Congress approves an inadequate final bill to address the Zika virus.
CDC Director Tom Frieden said last week his “jaw dropped” when he began to understand the exasperating pace at which Congress is moving. “Three months in an epidemic is an eternity,” he told reporters.
Lawmakers are currently in the middle of a 10-day vacation, which comes on the heels of a separate 10-day vacation last month. In July, Congress is only scheduled to be in session for a total of six days, and members won’t work at all in the month of August. All told, federal lawmakers will have the lightest schedule in 2016 of any Congress since 1956.
In February, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared, “We need to get out in front of the Zika virus.” That was on Feb. 2, shortly before Congress took … wait for it … a 10-day vacation in the middle of February.