- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2016

President Obama will have to grab money out of research accounts at the National Institutes of Health and shift it to combat Zika, House Democrats said Thursday, blaming congressional Republicans for failing to pony up more cash.

“Now we’re going into the National Institutes of Health,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said as she and her fellow Democrats demanded Congress reconvene and try to come up with more money.

She said the White House will make its own announcement about the specifics, but said the Zika crisis has reached the point where more money is needed now, and it’s not available.

House Republicans told the president nearly a month ago to use transfer authority to free up cash for Zika from elsewhere in the budget, but the White House resisted for weeks — in part because it hadn’t spent hundreds of millions of dollars in other Zika money it already moved.

Republicans, in a July 14 letter to Mr. Obama, said his administration had not been shy about transferring money to boost Obamacare, and they questioned why he was reluctant to do so on Zika.

There is a compromise bill to add some $1.1 billion in Zika money ready to go on Capitol Hill, but Senate Democrats are filibustering it, saying it’s too little, complaining that none of it goes to Planned Parenthood and that it shouldn’t be offset with cuts elsewhere.

It’s unclear that any of those dynamics have changed in the four weeks since Congress left for its summer vacation, but Democrats said lawmakers should be in Washington trying.

Mr. Obama earlier this year asked for some $1.9 billion to fight the mosquito-borne Zika, saying the country was facing the possibility of an epidemic. With the summer nearly over, the disease has turned out to be less severe — with local mosquito transmission detected only in one neighborhood in Miami so far.

But the chief effects of the disease — complications to pregnancies and severe birth defects for newborns — has elevated the issue.

House and Senate Republicans reached a compromise that would spend $1.1 billion on emergency needs. About two-thirds of that money would be paid for with cuts elsewhere, while the remaining amount is tacked onto the deficit in the manner Democrats had wanted.

Republican lawmakers said that was a compromise Democrats should be able to live with, particularly since they are in the minority in both chambers of Congress.

Democrats, though, have turned the issue into a political spear, attacking Republicans on the campaign trail for refusing to accept Mr. Obama’s proposal.

They say the final compromise should be $1.1 billion — the number Republicans have agreed to — but the funding should be added to the deficit, and they want some of it to be able to go to Planned Parenthood to provide contraceptives to prevent pregnancy in women at risk of Zika. Planned Parenthood is also the largest abortion provider network in the U.S.

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