- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Senate Democrats are filibustering $1.1 billion in emergency spending on the Zika virus because the legislation blocks funding for Planned Parenthood, but the White House’s initial funding request didn’t provide money for the agency, either.

The White House’s $1.9 billion request for Zika funding didn’t direct extra money to Planned Parenthood because it didn’t change provider eligibility under federal medical assistance rules, a House Republican aide said Tuesday. Therefore, the House-passed legislation on Zika funding “leads to the same outcome as the White House proposal,” the aide said.

Most of the Zika funding in the bill would go to mosquito prevention and vaccine research, with a small portion directed to public-health efforts.

Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Planned Parenthood “would not be eligible for the largest share of health care services funding” because the agency does not participate in Medicaid in Puerto Rico, where the virus is spreading most quickly. He said President Obama’s funding request did not mention Planned Parenthood; Senate Democrats want to add language explicitly directing money to the agency.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has said not allowing funds to go to Planned Parenthood’s Pro Familias clinics in Puerto Rico would limit the ability of women to prevent pregnancy during the Zika crisis.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats “are playing political games with public health and blocking a vote on this important legislation.”

“The Zika virus continues to be a very real threat to the American people,” Mr. Scalise said in Louisiana Tuesday after visiting a private mosquito-control firm in Metairie. “That is why over six weeks ago, the Republican-led House passed strong, bipartisan legislation to combat Zika and suspend outrageous EPA regulations that make it harder to actually kill mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus. We’re in a crisis that threatens millions of Americans, particularly expecting mothers and their children. I urge Senate Democrats to end their shameful political games and focus on what really matters: protecting the public health of all Americans by taking up the bipartisan House-passed Zika Bill today.”

The White House, which has accused congressional Republicans of dragging their feet and short-changing the administration’s funding request, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Congress is in the midst of its summer recess, and lawmakers won’t return until after Labor Day.

With the virus showing up in south Florida, Democrats are blaming Republicans for failing to provide money to combat its spread.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan has said the administration’s Zika funding request “does not make any changes to the underlying Medicaid program in the territories.”

The administration interprets “public health plans” in the House-passed legislation as the 13 “Preven” clinics in Puerto Rico that provide care through the Medicaid managed care network.

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