As the US Congress returned from its summer recess this fall, a bill that would permit the spending $1.1 billion in preventing the spread of the Zika virus was reintroduced. Democrats originally blocked the bill in late June, and it has been blocked two more times since then. The Zika virus, as expected, hit the continental US this summer. The first known cases came from Miami, Florida, where four people tested positive for the virus.
The initial negotiation between the House and the Senate (before the June proposal) agreed upon the amount of funding that would be put towards this project and where those funds would come from. However, when it came time to vote on the proposed bill, the House of Representatives added a clause barring all funding to a Planned Parenthood-affiliated organization in Puerto Rico. Republicans also added provisions that would defund parts of the Affordable Care Act and reverse the ban on flying Confederate flags in military cemeteries.
As discussions throughout Congress continues, Democratic representatives stated that they would not cut down funding for Planned Parenthood or federal programs, such as the Affordable Care Act, to offer money to combat the spread of Zika. The Democrats were accusing their counterparts of calling for emergency funding simply to cut funds from programs that they do not support. Naturally, the Republicans deny these claims and accuse the Democrats of making excuses for not passing the bill.
By the beginning of September, 16,800 cases of the virus were reported in the United States and Puerto Rico. At least 17 infants were reported to have been born with birth defects caused by the Zika virus, and countless more pregnant women have reported having the virus as well.
As the virus begins to hit home and spread throughout the US, some southern states have taken matters into their own hands and began aerial spraying, aiming to kill the mosquitoes carrying the virus. A proposal was accepted in early April to use leftover funding that was set aside for the Ebola outbreak. To help with the new health risk in our country, the Obama administration transferred nearly $600 million in funds that were originally intended to combat Ebola.
A stop-gap bill, which would provide support for Zika prevention until December 9, without cutting Planned Parenthood funding, was expected to pass in hopes of allowing for an omnibus spending bill for the upcoming year to pass, but Congress was able to decide on something more final. On September 24, Congress passed the bill allocating funds on the agreement to continue funding after the fiscal year ended and the budget expired.
Congress will be putting a total of $1.1 million towards the emergency, nearly $394 million to controlling the spread of the virus-carrying mosquitoes, $397 million to develop a vaccine to fight Zika and diagnose cases of the virus, and $66 million for health care for those affected by Zika in Puerto Rico and other US territories.