House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is masterful at looking like he’s doing something when he’s not. But today he took that to a new level by trying to steal credit from President Obama for Zika virus funding – funding his own House has been denying.
Here’s Ryan’s tweet where he presents himself as a leader directing the White House on Zika funding: “White House will use pre-allocated funding on #Zika response at our request.”
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) April 6, 2016
The truth is that the White House announced Wednesday that they would redirect $589 million in funds for Zika from the Ebola funding. They had to do this because…
Back in January, President Obama “convened his top advisers to formulate a proactive response to this epidemic, which has spread across the Americas,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest detailed in a presser today.
In February, the administration formally submitted a request to Congress for $1.8 billion. These funds would be used “to rapidly expand mosquito control programs, accelerate vaccine research and diagnostic development, enable testing and procurement of vaccines and diagnostics, educate health care providers, pregnant women and their partners, improve epidemiology and expand laboratory testing capacity, improve health services and support for low-income pregnant women, and enhance the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission,” according to the White House.
Here’s President Obama on February 8th calling on Congress to approve the $1.8 billion in emergency funds needed to fight the Zika virus:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 8, 2016
It’s April 6th, and Congress hasn’t authorized the “emergency funding” yet.
Worried about the mosquito carried virus, the White House could wait no longer.
White House budget director Shaun Donovan told reporters per Reuters, “some measures to fight Zika would have to be delayed, curtailed or stopped unless the U.S. Congress approves more than $1.8 billion in emergency funds requested by the Obama administration in February.”
So Republicans, who have done nothing, but that is to be expected as they can’t even pass a budget, are trying to look as though this work-around their inaction is actually leadership simply because they suggested it earlier:
In February, the Chairs called on the Administration to tap into these existing funds to provide the quickest and most efficient response to the Zika outbreak.
Yeah, that’s not leadership. Leadership would have been to respond to a national health crisis by doing something proactive, like anticipating the emergency and approving funds to deal with it.
Additionally, $600 million is not $1.8 billion.
The White House has explained that they can’t keep taking money from the Ebola fight, and the short term fix they are being forced into due to Republican inaction is not a permanent solution.
Earnest said that this is unique as we have had advance warning, and that we have been told by experts that there will be more Zika cases.
“We do have an opportunity to prepare for the Zika virus. But Congress has completely abdicated their responsibility to follow through on a proposal that the administration put forward, based on the advice of scientific experts,” Earnest explained.
“So the administration is going to do what we can right now to fight this disease by shifting funds temporarily… but now it’s time for Congress to its job for a change.”
That’s your Republican-led Congress, doing nothing, trolling the country and then taking credit when someone manages to work around their obstruction long enough to save a few people or avert a crisis or two. Yeah, Republicans totally directed this Zika crisis y’all! They sat on their hands and refused to fund it for months and when the crisis grew they petulantly told the White House to steal money from Ebola, confident that their House leadership couldn’t pass even a dollar for an emergency health crisis.
“Republicans are going to look back on this time that they’ve had to act on the Zika virus and deeply regret it,” Earnest warned today.
This is Paul Ryan’s “leadership” in action; taking credit for something the President had to do in order to get around Ryan’s ineptitude as Speaker.
Republicans are floating Ryan as a possibly Hail Mary presidential candidate, proving that the Peter Principle is in full bloom at the RNC.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.