Republicans obstructing support for Zika funding

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Washington, DC, September 18, 2016 | comments

Sun Sentinel

Republicans obstructing support for Zika funding

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Floridians and all of us deserve better from Congress on Zika funding

For months, Floridians have watched in shock and horror as the Zika virus has taken a deep toll on our state. Like many disasters we've faced, the Zika virus has swiftly forced its way into a corner of our lives. But sadly, instead of seeing the display of national unity and bipartisanship that typically follows an American disaster, Republicans have short-circuited the national response to Zika and choked it off with their trademarked anti-woman, anti-science policies and hurt Floridians in the process.

Zika disproportionately affects pregnant women, women considering becoming mothers, and babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said the Zika virus during pregnancy can lead to microcephaly, which can have a disastrous impact on a newborn baby. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly, and can have a range of other problems, including seizures, developmental delay, intellectual disability, problems with movement and balance, feeding problems such as difficulty swallowing, hearing loss and vision problems.

Despite these medical issues affecting babies and unborn children, far too many of my Republican colleagues have opted to recklessly and shamefully delay emergency funding for Zika that President Obama and our public health officials requested eight months ago.

In clear contrast, my House Democratic colleagues and I have offered a number of bills and amendments to provide this funding, but House Republicans have voted down our measures repeatedly and offered a laughable variety of excuses for their inaction.

While my Republican colleagues have wasted away months – and been able to travel home to Congressional districts untouched by Zika – people in my South Florida Congressional district and throughout the state have suffered.

South Floridians like Angel Small, who joined me at a local press conference and shared her story about how the Zika virus has changed her daily life. Every day before she leaves the house, she sprays herself with bug spray. Like Angel, women all across our region live with the fear of not knowing whether one mosquito bite will dramatically alter their unborn child's life – and as a mother of three kids, I know how truly difficult that must be for them.

South Florida business owners like Adrian Gonzalez, the owner of David's Café and Market Place in Miami Beach, have suffered too. I stood with Adrian in his family's café, just days after local transmission of the Zika virus was confirmed in Miami Beach, and listened as he described how his business would be affected by this crisis.

Angel and Adrian are the real people living under the threat of the Zika virus – not unfazed House Republicans who continue to sit on their hands and play politics with this crisis. Unfortunately, they are the ones holding back our government's response, by refusing to drop a poison pill rider that would prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any supplemental federal funding for combating the Zika virus.

That's right – my Republican colleagues have decided the most appropriate response to a virus that overwhelmingly affects pregnant women is to place a politically-motivated ban on the providers who can provide contraceptive care.

I've done many things to raise awareness and sound the alarm bells on this issue and will continue to until Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans stop playing with fire. This crisis has already hit South Florida hard, and until Republicans take the threat of the virus' spread seriously, I fear that it won't be long before it hits their Congressional districts too.

It's clear that mosquitoes don't know geographical boundaries – I just hope that my colleagues in the United States Congress don't either. While this might seem like Florida's problem today, we are all Americans, and whether we live in South Florida or South Dakota, we deserve better from our Representatives.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, represents Florida's 23rd district.

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