Kentucky Health News
As the Zika virus spreads in Florida, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky continues to press his argument that Senate Democrats are responsible for the lack of funding to fight it. But as with most political arguments, the latest column he sent Kentucky newspapers left out some details.
Senate Democrats did block a bill with $1.1 billion in Zika funding, saying Republicans had added “poison pills.” The one that got the most attention was a provision to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any funding for birth control in Puerto Rico, where there is an epidemic of the virus, which causes a serious birth defect and can be spread through sexual contact.
McConnell didn’t get that specific in his column, but wrote: “Democrats continue to make a lot of excuses for their vote, but it seems apparent they’re answering to the beck and call of a third-party interest group—Planned Parenthood. The common-sense bill that Senate Republicans proposed does not prohibit funding or deny access for birth control. In fact, it would expand access to women’s health care through Medicaid, community health centers, public health departments, and hospitals rather than earmarking those resources to one controversial interest group.”
Democrats also objected that the bill, primarily for military construction and veterans, did not include a provision banning display of the Confederate flag at federal veterans’ cemeteries, “a ban that the House, including 84 Republicans, voted in favor of just a month earlier,” Amber Phillips notes for The Washington Post. That’s fewer than a third of House Republicans, and the House-Senate conference committee was dominated by Republicans on both sides. It also added restrictions on Obamacare spending and other provisions Republicans liked.
“House leaders shaped the bill so that a majority would vote for it; in a conservative House, that meant making the bill more amenable to conservatives” who don’t like additional spending, Phillips writes. “The end result was a proposal Democrats said was untenable.”
Meanwhile, the urgency grows. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, “We’re gonna rapidly run out of money if we don’t get to real soon. . . . We’re getting to that critical point very quickly.”