Durbin Slams GOP For ‘Politicizing’ Zika Virus Funding
US Senator Dick Durbin is blasting Republicans for failing to pass a plan to combat the Zika Virus before Congress left town last week. Durbin says senators approved most of what President Obama had requested - $1.1 billion to provide education about Zika, and do research on a vaccine. But the Senate Minority Whip says Republicans in the House politicized the plan, adding amendments that Democrats couldn’t support.
Congress has adjourned, and is away from Washington for seven weeks. Durbin says those amendments included limiting funds for birth control, waiving portions of the Clean Water Act, cuts to the Veterans Administration to process veterans claims, and what Durbin calls the 'coup de gras', a provision which allows the display of Confederate flags at miltary ceremonies.
When Congress adjourned last week, it marked the start of its longest recess in 60 years.
“We found a bipartisan way deal with it in the Senate, and they blew it in the House," Durbin said. "We left Washington doing nothing about Zika virus. And that is a tragedy.”
Durbin met Monday with a panel at Urbana’s Carle Foundation Hospital. Health professionals say Zika is a real risk for pregnant women, or those planning to have a child – particularly when traveling to Puerto Rico or other affected areas.
"Our fear is the next step, when it moves from the traveller to someone who didn't travel," he said. "And the research is underway. Part of what the president asked for was the money to complete this research. We are learning as we go here, and it's a dangerous situation."
Dixie Sexton, a registered nurse in maternal fetal medicine at Carle, says the biggest issue is lack of education about the virus.
“What they ask the most is – should I wait to plan my family?," she said. "With so many unknowns right now, we’re saying yes. Because we don’t have an answer for them.”
More than 4,000 people in the US have been infected with Zika, including 26 in Illinois.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the state EPA have launched an effort to remove old tires from public and abandoned properties, where mosquitoes that spread Zika and other diseases can nest.