Last week the House passed a bill aimed at providing funds to fight the Zika virus despite a day-long sit-in protest by House Democrats. Today, Democrats in the Senate voted against the bill making it unlikely the funding will be made available before the coming congressional recess. Naturally, Democrats blamed the GOP for everything. The Hill reports:
In a 52-48 vote, the Senate fell eight votes short of moving past a procedural hurdle against the House-Senate conference report on a military and veterans spending bill, which includes $1.1 billion to fund the Zika virus research.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) broke with his party and backed moving forward with the deal. GOP Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted against the Zika deal. McConnell’s “no” vote allows him to bring the measure back up for another vote.
The vote leaves the current fight over the Zika virus at a standstill with days left before the July 4th recess.
Democrats criticized the legislation for including “poison pills” that they said made it difficult for their party to support.
Senate minority leader Harry Reid called the bill, “the most irresponsible legislation I have ever seen in my 34 years in Congress.” Meanwhile House Speaker Paul Ryan blasted Senate Democrats for blocking the funding:
This is ridiculous. Senate Democrats, after demanding Zika funding for months and supporting this exact funding level for weeks, now block it to create a political issue. Putting politics before a public health crisis is about as irresponsible as it gets. So much for all those lectures about doing your job.
Democrats seem to have resolved not to vote for the bill, in part, because Planned Parenthood told them not to do so. More generally, they are betting the GOP will ultimately be held to blame for the failed response. From Politico:
In the short term, Democrats are more open to criticism: After clamoring for new Zika funding for months, they are set to vote against a bill at funding levels they’ve already agreed to. They’ve offered myriad objections: That the bill is paid for irresponsibly, inordinately relaxes clean water regulations and was constructed with no Democratic input. On Tuesday morning, Planned Parenthood wrote all Senate offices opposing the bill, arguing that “a vote against this bill will be seen as a vote for women’s health care.”
But given the history on legislative impasses, Democrats are betting that the majority party will be held responsible by voters.
“They have to be responsible. It falls on Republicans,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a Senate leader and former top campaign strategist. “We’re just supposed to say yes? That’s not how we do things responsibly around here.”
This is a pretty cynical approach to a disease which causes permanent brain damage among infants.
The first birth of a child with Zika-related microcephaly happened today in Florida. The mother is Haitian and was infected with the virus in her home country.