Just days ahead of Congress’ seven-week recess, the prospect of passing a $1.1 billion Zika funding measure looks bleak as Democrats continue to push back over a number of riders on the legislation.
The conference report, which cannot be amended, includes language blocking federal funds from being allocated toward Planned Parenthood, and temporarily eases EPA regulations making it easier to use pesticides to kill mosquitos – which is primarily how the virus is spread.
The Zika virus has been linked to severe birth defects, and a number of health experts fear without funding to prevent its spread, a massive health crisis is on the horizon.
Planned Parenthood funding has been a major point of contention, with Democrats arguing the clinics in Puerto Rico, which have been hit heavily with Zika cases, need federal dollars to handle the issue.
Republicans said Democrats’ push was futile, as women can seek comprehensive care at other health clinics that don’t provide abortions. Despite the pushback, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation that the upper chamber still plans to vote on the conference report before they break Friday.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has accused Republicans of holding the funding hostage by including the provisions.
“We offered to reintroduce the Senate bipartisan Zika compromise from what we sent to the House. We would do it again as a free-standing bill. That bill had 89 votes — 89 senators voted for that,” he said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “We’ve offered Republicans legitimate compromises. ”
Republicans argue Democrats are playing politics by refusing to get behind the bill, putting the country at risk of a public health crisis, especially with mosquito season about to peek.
“Democrats have a partisan interest in blocking critical anti-Zika funding. That’s what’s going on here. But Americans are asking them to please just put politics aside for once and think of the national interest,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech Wednesday. “Does anyone – anyone – seriously believe pregnant mothers care about manufactured squabbles over offsets and earmarks and duplicative paperwork?”
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