The White House is demanding Congress immediately hand over $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus ravaging Brazil, or risk a full-blown crisis in the U.S., but Republicans are balking.
Since the outbreak of Zika last year in Brazil, thousands of babies have been born with neurological defects linked to the mosquito-borne malady, and hundreds of U.S. residents have contracted the virus. Democrats in Congress and the White House say they’re convinced the virus could wreak havoc in the U.S. if the nearly two billion dollars isn’t appropriated right now to keep the virus from spreading.
“This is an emergency,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told The New York Times.
“We have all seen the pictures of these babies with these small heads caused by a mosquito bite,” Senate Minority Leader [crscore]Harry Reid[/crscore] said in a recent floor speech. “Sadly, the worst is on its way.”
Republican lawmakers are reluctant to comply with the request, saying they want more specifics from the administration on how and when the money will be spent. (RELATED: Abortionists Capitalize On Devastation Wrought By Zika Virus)
“We have a number of questions that the appropriators have asked for, like what would the money be spent on this year, what is the money you need for next year, where are we on the vaccine?” House Majority Leader [crscore]Kevin McCarthy[/crscore] told reporters Tuesday, according to TheNYT. “None of these have been answered.”
The White House submitted an outline of the proposal when the funds were requested about two months ago, and says senior administration officials have briefed congress and answered questions about Zika in dozens of hearings. At the request of Congress, the White House has already diverted more than $500 million of unspent money appropriated to fight Ebola into the fight against Zika.
The proposal would direct the bulk of the funds to the Department of Health and Human Services, and a much smaller portion to the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of State, to fund increased research on the virus, development of a vaccine and an effort to control mosquito populations.
“I guess what I would say to members of Congress who say that they have questions about the administration’s Zika strategy, ‘That ignorance is not an excuse,'” Earnest told TheNYT.
The Senate is getting closer to cutting a deal for closer to $1 billion in newly appropriated funds.
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