Congress leaves for summer without funding Zika fight; McConnell and Reid trade barbs of blame

Congress left Washington for a summer recess without providing any more money to fight the spread of the Zika virus that causes birth defects.

“In what has become a familiar ritual, Democrats and Republicans pointed the finger at each other over who is to blame. It’s a gamble by leaders in both parties that voters will hold the other side accountable for gridlock come November,” report Kelsey Snell and Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post.

President Obama had asked for $1.9 billion to fight Zika. The Senate approved a bipartisan package of $1.1 billion, but House Republicans approved only $622 million. Then Republicans in both chambers agreed on the Senate’s $1.1 billion figure but added what Democrats called “poison pill” restrictions on Planned Parenthood.

Senate Democrats blocked a vote on the package, also citing what they called “ill-advised cuts to other federal health programs,” the Post reports. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky “has been stringing us along. He never had any intention of coming back to the negotiating table. Republicans have no desire to work with us to get a bipartisan Zika funding bill to the president – now, or any time in the future. It’s all been a charade.”

Asked for a reply, McConnell’s office cited a speech in which the top Republican senator said Democrats should “start worrying
less about pleasing outside political groups and start worrying more about
actually helping the Americans who are counting on us.”

The Obama administration redirected $589 million to Zika from anti-Ebola efforts, but health officials have warned that is not enough, the Post reports.

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