Congress abandoned the Capitol Thursday for an almost two-week break without addressing how to combat Zika, even as public health officials issue dire warnings about the spread of the mosquito-driven virus with summer approaching.
Republican leaders insist that a deal can be struck soon to provide the money federal health officials say is needed to develop a vaccine. They also played down the risk of waiting a little longer, arguing existing money is available for the initial steps needed to help contain the virus while lawmakers resolve the larger funding fight.
But with Democrats hammering Republicans over neglect on a virus that attacks pregnant women, some GOP lawmakers, particularly those in Florida and other warm-weather locales, expressed increasing anxiety about the slowly developing response as the warm weather breeds more mosquitoes.
“The CDC is saying we’re less than a month away from a mosquito [epidemic] in the U.S. I mean, I take that seriously,” Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), ..., said this week. “These are not politicians. These are scientists and doctors that are looking at this issue and telling us, you’ve got a real problem on your hands.”
In response to the Obama administration’s $1.9 billion Zika request, the Senate approved $1.1 billion in funding earlier this month while the House has passed legislation that would provide $622 million, which would be drawn from money already set aside for Ebola programs.
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