It's been three months since the White House, working in coordination with the CDC and public-health experts, first sent Congress a $1.9 billion emergency budget request
to address the Zika virus threat. The Republican majority has spent every week since looking for an excuse to do nothing.
The good news is, House GOP leaders unveiled their proposal yesterday to address the emergency. The bad news is, the Republican bill is practically a punch-line to a bad joke. The Hill reported
House Republicans on Monday introduced a bill to provide $622 million in additional funding to fight the Zika virus this year. The measure is fully paid for, in part by shifting over unspent money that was intended to fight Ebola, the House Appropriations Committee said. The House is likely to vote on the bill, which would provide a fraction of the $1.9 billion requested by the White House, this week.
Keep in mind, Senate Republicans endorsed a $1.1 billion emergency package
last week, which falls far short of what the administration and public-health experts believe is necessary. But the House GOP sees that bill as too generous
, so Republicans in the lower chamber cut that total roughly in half.
Worse, note the trajectory of the debate. Soon after the White House made the case for the $1.9 billion Zika response, House Republicans said
the administration should simply redirect $600 million that had been allocated to combat Ebola. The trouble, of course, is that this money (a) is far short of the $1.9 billion needed, and (b) is still being used to address Ebola in West Africa.
That was a month ago. Yesterday, House Republicans, after weeks of careful deliberation and analysis, introduced legislation to push the same discredited idea.
In other words, the more serious the Zika threat becomes, the less serious GOP lawmakers are about addressing it.
By all appearances, congressional Republicans start with an ideologically satisfying answer -- avoid public investment in response to an important national priority -- and then work backwards to craft legislation. It's pretty much the opposite of how a governing party is supposed to operate.
The editorial board of the Washington Post published a good piece
on this the other day, before the House GOP bill was unveiled.
The Republican-controlled Congress has wasted entirely too much time sitting on President Obama's request for emergency funding to combat the arrival of the Zika virus to the mainland United States. The National Governors Association, not exactly an alarmist group, declared that "the nation is on the threshold of a public health emergency." Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory where the virus is already on the move, "is on the precipice of a really serious disaster." Now that Congress has returned from its recess, it is time to buckle down and approve the president's request for about $1.9 billion in emergency funding, or something close to it.
Republicans have had three months to give this a lot of thought. Yesterday they answered, in effect, "No."