It seems like every issue today has a political agenda. You would think that ridding the country of the scourge of a Zika virus epidemic would be an exception – but you would be wrong.
That’s the conclusion of The Wall Street Journal editorial board that recently revealed what’s going on behind the scenes as local government in Florida tries to rid the Miami area of this virus. They say that the Obama administration is sitting on money and methods to reduce the Zika outbreak and using the virus as a political bludgeon to elect more Democrats. (Sadly, I’m not making this up!)
A Zika virus outbreak hit Miami this past week and the Centers for Disease Control advised pregnant women to get checked for possible exposure. Women in Miami are being told to cover up, stay indoors and wear insect repellant because the virus can cause malformed brains in the womb.
They report about 6,400 cases of Zika infections have been confirmed in the U.S. and its territories, though only one in five infected show symptoms. Most cases have been contracted by individuals who traveled to regions with an epidemic, particularly Latin and Central America. It is usually spread by mosquitos but can be contracted by sexual relations.
White House to Blame
The Obama administration is trying to blame Congress instead of taking ownership for its own failures. White House press secretary Eric Schultz said, “The keys here are sitting with Congress, and they have to turn them to unleash more federal funding.” But Democratic Senate leaders Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer blocked Zika funding. The Administration requested $1.9 billion for Zika research, education and prevention in February. Last month the Senate and House agreed to a $1.1 billion compromise that was offset by $543 million in leftover ObamaCare funds when Puerto Rico chose to expand Medicaid rather than set up exchanges.
But Senate Democrats blocked the conference report, inventing the excuse that the bill banned funding for Planned Parenthood, restricted access to birth control and gutted the Clean Water Act. The WSJ editorial says none of this is true.
Even with Congress on vacation, the White House has $385 million in reprogrammed Ebola funds at its disposal. Only about half of that has been obligated, which Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Hall attributes to bureaucratic federal procurement regulations. Yet the Administration continues to insist it needs more money even though it can’t spend the money it has fast enough.
And where is President Obama with his famous “pen and a phone?” If he really wanted to take action to solve this problem he would use his executive privileges he is so fond of using when Congress doesn’t give him what he wants.
For instance, he could direct the Food and Drug Administration to approve use of a genetically engineered male mosquito developed by the British company Oxitec. These mosquitos can be released into affected areas where the mosquito and its offspring die before reaching maturity, substantially reducing the infectious population in a few months.
Henry Miller of the Hoover Institute says bureaucratic intransigence is also to blame for the slow development of a Zika vaccine. Clinical trials would have to be conducted in areas where Zika is widespread, like Puerto Rico. But the FDA imposes strenuous requirements for studies that could make it hard to prove a vaccine is safe and effective. That means there is little incentive for companies to make the investment in research needed to develop the vaccine.
The Wall Street Journal summarizes the situation:
“Democrats are calling Republicans obstructionists in hopes that frustration with government and an anti-Trump wave will deliver them the Senate and perhaps even the House in November. But the root cause of Washington’s Zika pathology is Democrats who are exploiting the virus to score political points.”
Is it any wonder that people in both parties are fed up with government and the political establishment?