- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2016

Congress will be abdicating its core responsibility to the American people — public safety — if it breaks for a weeklong recess Friday without authorizing funds to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus, a Florida Republican said Monday.

“Today is the first day of summer, which means mosquito season is here and that means the Zika virus is here,” Rep. Vern Buchanan said. “People’s lives are at stake — the time for inaction is over.”

Mr. Buchanan was the first House Republican to back President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency spending to combat Zika virus, which is swirling in Latin America and Puerto Rico and can cause serious birth defects in infants born to infected mothers.

Instead, congressional negotiators are reconciling a House plan that takes $622 million from the lingering fight against Ebola in West Africa and other health accounts to fight Zika with a Senate plan that posts $1.1 billion without paying for it with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

Negotiators appeared close to agreement on a spending level last week, but remain stuck on how, or even whether, to offset the money or tack the expense onto the deficit so that taxpayers foot the bill later on.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded more than 750 travel-related cases of Zika in the 50 states and D.C., a handful of them through sexual transmission, though experts say the virus could puncture the mainland further once summer ramps up and Aedes mosquitoes flourish.

Mr. Buchanan challenged his colleagues to finish up their work before the virus begins to spread by insect bite.

“We need to listen to the health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and give them the resources they need to control the devastating health impact of this disease,” Mr. Buchanan said.

So far, three babies have been born in the U.S. with birth defects that resulted from Zika infection, according to the CDC.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, also has backed Mr. Obama’s request for nearly $2 billion to fight the disease.

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