The Zika Virus, as we know, can infect a person via a mosquito bite and lead to serious health issues such as dengue, fever, conjunctivitis, pain in the muscles and joints, depression, and headache. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently said that if infected during pregnancy, the Zika Virus could cause microcephaly, as well as lead to other serious fetal brain issues. The Zika infection has had a severe impact in the South American countries until now, with only a few cases reported in the US, but experts are worried that the affect might be devastating in the upcoming months with peak mosquito season.
The Congress and the Obama Administration understand the need of federal intervention to prevent the spread of Zika Virus infection and control the disease in the US. Nevertheless, the House and the Senate are divided on how to proceed with the action plan.
It is noted that both the House and the Senate were working on bringing forth legislations to allocate federal funds on addressing the Zika Virus issue. When the House of Representatives proposed the Zika Response Appropriations Act of 2016 (H.R. 5243) bill last month, it faced quite a lot opposition from the Democrats, who believed that the amount authorized was not enough to implement adequate measures to counter Zika threat.
Also, the H.R. 5243 bill did not have any provisions to allot the said amount as emergency funding, but rather would reuse the leftover funds from the 2014 Ebola attack prevention, and get the rest amount from the HHS’ administrative accounts. This strategy is meant to minimize the effect on federal debt, but the Democrats and the House expressed strong disagreement on the plan. President Obama declared that the H.R. 5243 bill would be rejected, even if it makes it to his desk.
On the other hand, the Senate proposed the Zika funding to be included as an amendment on an unrelated spending bill, and not as a standalone funding bill. The Senate also approved an amendment last month that assigned $1.1 billion as emergency funding to fight Zika Virus attack. However, Republicans were split on the amendment, some asking for full payment of the requested amount. President Obama, along with all the Congressional Democrats and the CDC have disapproved of the bill, as they see the funding inadequate.
A conference committee is formed now to assess and reconcile the two bills.