Early Thursday morning, the House voted to pass a $1.1 billion Zika funding bill during the middle of the Democratic sit-in for a vote on gun-control measures. Progress on … something! But the bill excludes the $50 million requested for child and maternal health, and blocks any Zika-related funds from going to Planned Parenthood (or any other family-planning group) for birth control.
This bill mandates that funds are prioritized for mosquito-control efforts and research including vaccine development. There is no money allocated for distributing condoms or other contraceptives. Reminder: The Zika virus is a cause of miscarriages and birth defects, and can be sexually transmitted, so one might go as far as to say that birth control is also a priority here, especially for low-income women.
And yet, House Speaker Paul Ryan sees no problems with the bill. He deemed it “a responsible plan that assures the administration will continue to have the needed resources to protect the public.” Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Senate Health Committee, was none too pleased, and accused Republicans of punting:
It is unthinkable that in the face of a public health emergency, Republicans chose to pass a hyperpartisan proposal that doubles down on using women’s health as a political football by restricting access to women’s health care, like contraception, which is especially critical to preventing the spread of this virus.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest echoed the playing-around theme:
While we are still awaiting more details on the legislation, it is clear that once again, Republicans have put political games ahead of the health and safety of the American people, particularly pregnant women and their babies.
President Obama has threatened to veto the bill. Our government at work, ladies and gentlemen.