Democrats are insisting that Congress give President Obama every penny he’s asking for to effectively combat the Zika virus in the United States, congressional Republicans are pushing less costly legislation and a veterinarian-turned-congressman says education and common sense will do a lot more to protect women and children than more government spending.
Even more, Democrats are being accused of instinctively pursuing higher spending and impeding an effective response due to their loyalties to the environmental lobby.
Since the Zika threat emerged earlier this year, President Obama has asked for Congress to approve $1.9 billion in spending to assure an effective federal response. The GOP-controlled Senate approved a $1.1 billion package, while the House passed $622 million.
The House total is on top of another half-billion dollars moved around to address Zika.
“The White House, typically, wants to throw money at the situation as a knee-jerk reaction. We’ve already redirected over $500 million earlier this year. That wasn’t new spending. It was redirecting money,” said Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who worked for many years as a veterinarian before coming to Congress.
“Then we passed another bill of around $600 million as you pointed out. That’s not new money. That’s money coming out of the Ebola account. They have over a billion dollars left in that account,” said Yoho.
Congressional Democrats are unsatisfied, with some insisting they will oppose any amount of money short of what Obama is requesting.
“I would not support inadequate funding to deal with the healthcare catastrophe that could develop if we do not tackle the Zika virus in the right way,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus to reporters.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also rejects the lower amounts being offered by Republicans.
“They said it’s half a loaf. No, it’s half a shoe. You cannot get to where you need to be with half a shoe,” she said in comments recorded by The Hill.
Yoho says Democrats are locked into a number instead of what will actually reduce the Zika threat.
“To get into an argument of, ‘The president wants to spend more money so that’s right,’ vs. just doing a controlled response to this I think would be the more prudent thing to do, and I think you’ll get as good if not better results,” said Yoho.
“Throwing money is not the solution. What you have to do is. What you have to do is look at vector control, which would be the mosquito and do the proper type of sprayings at the right time of year, have mosquito repellents that are safe and non-toxic for pregnant mothers, and just use the common sense approaches they we do in any kind of an outbreak,” said Yoho.
In addition to believing Democrats reflexively believe more spending is the best solution to the problem, Yoho says many have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Zika.
“I’ve heard congressmen say we’ve got to eliminate that type of mosquito. The family it belongs to is called Aedes. They want to eliminate it. It’s impossible. You’re never going to eliminate that,” said Yoho.
But beyond a lack of understanding, Yoho says Democrats are actively undermining the most logical approach to Zika as a result of political loyalties.
“One of the things is to use the insecticides that we know are safe. They’ve been out there, but the Democrats up here don’t want to use that because of the environmental concerns. These are mosquito repellents and pesticides that have been used and approved by our EPA as safe and environmentally friendly,” said Yoho.
He says Democrats have concerns about the chemicals hurting the environment, but reiterates our own government disagrees with them.
“They’re claiming there’s toxic environmental effects from that but again the EPA has signed off on this. The USDA has signed off on this. These are chemicals that have been used for years,” said Yoho.
He says the public need to realize there will not be a vaccine available anytime this summer and that common sense provisions like spraying, wearing insect repellent and removing standing water are all ways every American can help reduce the threat.
Yoho says we should also be aware that the vast majority of American Zika cases have something in common.
“The majority of those have been to another country. I think only a handful of people have been infected in this country,” he said. “Do people need to be screened before they come into this country? Or if they go to another country, do they need to go into a quarantine?”
Yoho also explained what we are likely to see in terms of Zika cases as weather gets warmer.
“Everybody in America’s virtually susceptible. In the beginning of an exposure like we’re seeing now, you’ll see numbers shoot up. Then they’ll taper off rather quickly. The majority of the people who will be bitten and exposed to this virus, will never have a reaction,” said Yoho.