WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) — One day after the House passed legislation to spend more than $620 million to fight the Zika epidemic, the Senate on Tuesday advanced its own legislation that earmarks $1.1 billion to the cause.
The Senate’s pledge is about $800 million shy of the amount requested by theObama administration to fight the disease, which has spread across continents and landed in the United States over the past year.
A proposal for the entire $1.9 billion was rejected, as was a bill that pledged the cash but included spending cuts in other areas to offset the cost.
Several lawmakers stated emphatically that action must be taken now against the epidemic.
“If anybody in the audience or in this room doesn’t think this an emergency, you should have been with [Maine] Senator [Susan] Collins and I two weeks ago,” Sen.Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said. “There have already been one million cases in the Caribbean and Central America and South America, 500 cases in the United States of America and it’s going to grow.
“The faster we get our arms around it, the better off the American people are going to be.”
The funds earmarked by the HAC Monday are unused monies that were pledged to various administrative duties and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Both bills allocate money for various key agencies at the center of the effort to control Zika — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
The Obama administration has stated its belief that the Zika virus is a health emergency, and as such new spending without corresponding and offsetting cuts is justified. Some congressional Republicans, though, believe it amounts to irresponsible spending.
“Our [Republican] friends on the other side of the aisle need to wake up and realize the world is changing,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., shouted during a news conference Tuesday. “We have new crises. It takes some money to fix them, whether it’s Zika, the crisis in Flint or opioids, we have to invest some dollars in the fights if we’re going to solve the problems.
“[Republicans] are in the past. They’re just saying cut — cut everything. Don’t spend, even when there’s a national emergency.”