If Zika Spreads, Here's Why Moms & Babies Have the Government to Blame

zika funding blocked

This year, kids weren't the only ones free to bask in the sun and play this summer. The Senate has been off for seven whole weeks for its summer recess, and on Tuesday, the legislators had to set their sunblock and flip-flops aside to get back to work for the American people. One of the first orders of business: voting on a critical bill that would provide $1.1 billion to battle the Zika virus. And surprise, surprise -- it was defeated. 

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So, this is where frustrated voters who love to accuse both sides of the aisle of being dysfunctional wring their hands and ask, "Why can't we all just get along -- especially when it comes to funding that could protect pregnant women and their babies?"

Here's why: Because the Republicans insisted on slipping language into the bill that would not only defund Planned Parenthood, but also legally allow the Confederate flag to be flown at veterans' cemeteries. According to Time, the GOP measure "bars Planned Parenthood clinics in Zika-suffering Puerto Rico from receiving new money to treat the disease and curb its spread."

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That's just one example of pork in the bill that the Democrats are calling "poison pill riders to assuage the hard right."

Of course, House Speaker Paul Ryan refuses to take responsibility. He'd rather accuse Democrats of "politicizing" Zika:

Oh, FFS. What are we, in fifth grade? This is the Senate equivalent of, "I know you are, but what am I!"

In the time of a national health crisis, one that is specifically affecting mothers-to-be, families, and babies, this is how the right wing acts -- calling for measures that would actually harm women, then deflecting blame. It's absolutely abysmal. Not surprising, given the obstructionist tactics the conservative party has employed for years now, but still. Abysmal.

These are FACTS, not conjecture, not spin, not politics:

56 people are infected with the disease in Florida. 2,686 travel-related cases from across the country have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). At least 23 of these cases have been transmitted sexually. 624 pregnant women have tested positive for some evidence of the virus, and 16 babies have been born in the US (so far) who have birth defects linked to it, according to the CDC.

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Because the Senate couldn't pass funding legislation before its summer vacay, Zika spread in the mainland. Now, Republicans are playing games, all while the CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden says he needs more money to fight the disease.

Does defunding Planned Parenthood and defending Confederate flag waving have anything to do with funds necessary to protect pregnant women and children from Zika? It's just friggin' monkey business, a distraction, a pathetic appeal to the GOP base. It has nothing to do with what the majority of Americans want or need right now. What we -- as women and mothers -- need right now.

Plenty of legislators on the left, like Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren, are calling Ryan and Co. out.

Also good news: Pressure may be mounting on Republicans. According to Politico, just today two senior Senate democratic officials said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is, in private, essentially conceding that Senate Republicans are ready to scrap language affecting Planned Parenthood. 'Course, even if the bill passes the Senate, it's going to have to go to the House, where the GOP is pumped to fight over the same damn thing.

What a train wreck.
 
At least we can take heart in one thing: We have an exciting opportunity in less than two months to fire these garbage legislators who prioritize their personal, moral agenda. This is just another reminder that we need to get out on November 8 and elect senators who will not only do their damn job, but do what's best for women and kids.
 

 

Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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