- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton jumped Wednesday into the funding debate over Zika virus by proposing a new public health fund to rapidly respond to outbreaks and other emergencies.

Mrs. Clinton said a rainy-day fund is needed in an increasingly globalized world, where diseases like Ebola, bird flu and SARS can easily hop borders and threaten the U.S.

“Despite these threats, we are not investing in public health preparedness and emergency response the way we should to keep our families and communities safe,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Mrs. Clinton said her response fund would be funded each year to ensure that federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Health and Human Services and state and local health departments have additional funding.

The proposal is similar to one by Sens. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, and Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, that would create a permanent fund to allow a quick and nimble response to unforeseen health scares such as Ebola or Zika. The senators say Congress’ tendency to scramble for funds as public grows is a “an inefficient and dangerous” way to deal with the crises.



Mrs. Clinton’s campaign proposal arrives as Congress remains deadlocked over a funding package to deal with the increasing threat of Zika virus, which can cause birth defects in infants born to infected mothers. 

It also increases pressure on her GOP rival, Donald Trump, to weigh in.

The mogul hasn’t said much about Zika, though he praised Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s efforts to combat the disease, after the fellow Republican reported the first cases of mosquito-borne transmission in late July.

The problem has grown worse since then, with Florida counting 42 locally acquired infections, primarily in the Wynwood area of Miami. 

Five more cases have been found in Miami Beach, and investigators are trying to figure out if a case on the other side of the state, near Tampa, is a one-off or could lead to active transmission in Pinellas County.

Meanwhile, the continental U.S. has racked up more than 2,000 travel-related cases, including a handful through sexual transmission, and mosquitos are infecting thousands in Puerto Rico.

Mrs. Clinton on Wednesday took a swipe at Congress for failing to pass President Obama’s $1.9 billion request for emergency funding to combat Zika, saying its allowed the virus to grab a “foothold” in Miami.

But Republican leaders say Democrats like Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have their own party to blame, after Senate Democrats twice filibustered a military spending package that included $1.1 billion to fight the disease. 

Democrats said the package shortchanged the effort, rolled back environmental protections and should have included Planned Parenthood in its birth control plans.

As concern about Zika grows, Republican leaders said they will give Democrats a third chance to support the package when the Senate reconvenes from a seven-week recess on Sept. 6.

 

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