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Democrats should stop playing politics with Zika virus funding

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Washington, August 16, 2016 | comments
It is no wonder the American people are frustrated with Washington. I was frustrated by midafternoon the first day I was sworn in to represent the First District in Congress.

Few things have been more disappointing to me than the political gamesmanship surrounding the federal government’s response to the Zika virus. It is no surprise that Zika is now being locally transmitted in the United States. What is shocking to me is that some in Congress would continue partisan bickering rather than working on responsible solutions to the problem in the face of a potential outbreak here at home.

When President Obama came to Congress asking for a $1.9 billion blank check to combat the disease, we in the House asked for a plan and urged him to immediately put to use some $600 million in existing resources available to him. Instead of working with us, the Obama Administration decried our audacity for asking for an accounting of how the people’s money would be used.

In the face of inaction from the administration, Republicans in the House and Senate moved competing legislative responses to the virus. Both would provide the Department of Health and Human Services, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development with critically needed resources. With a bipartisan majority in the House we advanced a plan that was fully paid for, largely from funds left over from the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

In hammering out our differences, both sides had to give on some items but we worked together to come up with a solution. The final solution matched the $1.1 billion agreed to by the Senate just a month before and would have brought the total funds available just shy of the President’s original request.

While the agreement once again passed with a bipartisan majority in the House, it was tanked by Senate Democrats in a political gamble they hoped would benefit their party.

They disparaged the bill as an “attack on women’s health” despite the fact that it did not prohibit any birth control services and actually increased funding for community health centers, public health departments, and hospitals.

They complained that the bill was paid for largely using unspent funds from the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Why shouldn’t Washington put forward responsible spending plans just like families, states and municipalities, and businesses do every day?

They singled out a temporary provision allowing local mosquito control authorities to use federally-approved pesticides without mandates imposed by Washington bureaucrats.

Senate Democrats, President Obama and their nominee can hem and haw all they want to but their objections to this bipartisan bill ring hollow.

Rather than hosting another campaign rally, they should come back to the table and work with us to advance this reasonable response to a very real threat.

It’s time to stop playing political games with the health and safety of the American people. It’s time to start doing the jobs to which we were elected.

U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, R., represents Georgia’s 1st District.
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