Congressman Thomas J. Rooney

Representing the 17th District of Florida

What the Democrats won’t tell you about Zika

Sep 12, 2016
Press Release
By Congressman Tom Rooney

Again last week, all but two Senate Democrats blocked for a third time the $1.1 billion Zika funding bill, which 233 House Republicans and a mere six House Democrats passed over a month and half ago. The Democrats continue to justify their nay votes by lambasting Republicans for inserting radical “poison pill riders” that hurt women and destroy the environment – two reliable soundbites the Democrats love to execute during election season in order to abdicate them of their role in Congressional gridlock. Rather than challenging politicians back up their claims with facts, the media thrive off headlines of Congressional inaction. In the interest of those who believe Zika is a genuine threat and want Congress to act, here’s what the Democrats won’t tell you:

What Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) will tell you: The House Zika bill “limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus” in Puerto Rico.

What he won’t tell you: The House-passed bill contains $46 million specifically for Puerto Rico to expand the delivery of primary and pediatric health care services at any of its public health departments, hospitals and community health clinics. The Democrats will have you believe that because this funding is directed to public community health centers and not to Pro-Familia (Planned Parenthood’s Puerto Rico affiliate), that women in Puerto Rico will somehow not have access critical prenatal care and preventative services they need. According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, there are 11 Pro-Familia facilities on the island, 8 clinics and 3 information centers. When you compare that to 20 health centers and 84 service sites that do qualify for the Zika funding in this bill, women in Puerto Rico have the option of seeking Zika-related treatment, including access to pediatric subspecialists, at one of 104 other health care facilities on the island.

What Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will tell you: “The conference report would weaken clean water and air protections by waiving portions of the Clean Water Act to allow for greater use of pesticides without EPA approval.”

What he won’t tell you: The Conference Report includes a 180-day emergency waiver that would lift the requirement for states to obtain an additional Clean Water Act (CWA) permit before using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved pesticides in the prevention and control of Zika. The EPA has granted such a waiver to control the spread of Lyme disease and has registered a number of pesticides for the domestic control of mosquitoes under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the law that protects human health and the environment from unreasonable adverse effects of pesticides. Traditional truck and aerial spraying methods used by mosquito control districts in Florida are only moderately effective in reducing the types of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. With the emergency waiver in this bill, Florida can immediately begin utilizing safe, environmentally-friendly, innovative mosquito control technologies – like the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Sterile Insect Technique – in order to stop the spread of Zika where it starts. We need to kill these mosquitoes, we need to kill them now, and Democrats think that waiting in line at the EPA for another federal permit while these mosquitoes continue to breed in our backyards is more important.

What Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will tell you: The House Zika Bill is “the most irresponsible legislation I have ever seen in my 34 years in Congress.”

What he won’t tell you: That on Feb. 18 the House urged the Administration to use existing, unspent Ebola funds that were set to expire in September to address the Zika threat and that on April 6 the Administration did so.

That on April 19, the President signed into law a bipartisan measure to encourage the development, testing, and distribution of vaccine treatments for Zika.

That on May 18, the House passed the Zika Response Appropriations Act which appropriated an additional $622 million in new funding to fight against Zika. That funding, coupled with the $589 million, totaled Congress’ allocation of funds to be $1.2 billion to fight Zika – I bet he won’t tell you that one.

He certainly won’t tell you that on May 26 the House moved to go to conference with the Senate and on June 23, less than a month later, the House passed the Zika Conference Committee Report.

And finally he won’t tell you that not once, not twice but now three times now that he and his fellow Democrats in the Senate have voted against the House passed bill which would immediately provide $1.1 billion in funding to fight the virus.

Why won’t Senator Reid and the rest of the Democrats tell you all of these things?

Because they are more concerned with politicizing an issue that has devastating effects on pregnant women and their babies than they are about doing their jobs and passing legislation. They have more fun using their false, politicized statements to dominate the media narrative and make the American public believe blatant lies.


This op-ed ran in The Hill on September 12, 2016