House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) today accused Republicans of “appalling fecklessness in the face of a frightening public health emergency” — the Zika virus — that “is beyond dangerous.”
At her weekly press conference, Pelosi complained that “this just seems to be a Congress that just wants to say no, no to the budget, no to appropriate Zika funding, no to Puerto Rico, no to immigration, no to gun safety.”
“Well, we know the votes are there for all of these initiatives,” she added.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration diverted nearly $600 million in unused Ebola funding to Zika. They weren’t happy about it, though, as they’d asked Congress to approve $1.9 billion in additional funds for vector control, disease detection, testing, vaccine development and support for pregnant women whose unborn children are at risk of birth defects from the virus.
“This Zika situation is saying no to science,” Pelosi said, highlighting an amendment offered by Dems yesterday in the Appropriations Committee to fully fund President Obama’s request. “…And the Republicans said no, of course.”
She added that “it could have devastating consequences for thousands of America’s children and families.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Wednesday that the mosquito-borne Zika virus, currently spreading in Puerto Rico, causes several birth defects.
“It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly. We are also launching further studies to determine whether children who have microcephaly born to mothers infected by the Zika virus is the tip of the iceberg of what we could see in damaging effects on the brain and other developmental problems,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.
“We’ve now confirmed what mounting evidence has suggested, affirming our early guidance to pregnant women and their partners to take steps to avoid Zika infection and to healthcare professionals who are talking to patients every day,” Frieden said. “We are working to do everything possible to protect the American public.”
As of Wednesday, there are 358 known Zika cases in the United States, all associated with travel. Thirty-one of those cases are pregnant women, and seven cases have been spread through sexual contact.
In U.S. territories, almost all of the 475 known cases spread locally; just four were linked to travel from an affected country.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters outside of a closed caucus meeting on Wednesday that he’s “glad the White House, number one, took our recommendation and put the money that was already in the pipeline towards Zika that we recommended.”
“Number two, we will address the situation through the regular appropriations process as the need arises and our appropriators are looking at how to do just that,” Ryan said.
Pressed on whether House Republicans feel that the Obama administration needs the $1.9 billion requested, Ryan replied, “Just what I said. The money’s in the pipeline, our appropriators are going to address this issue. If the need arises, our appropriators will address it in the appropriations process.”