*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
It is not as if Democrats needed anything more to defeat Republicans and retake both chambers of Congress, President Barack Obama just gave them another campaign talking point. While the laziest Congress in recent memory is on yet another extended vacation, something they claim hardworking Americans simply don’t deserve, the President is doing their job in protecting American citizens from a frightening enemy.
On Thursday the Obama Administration announced it was forced to shift roughly $81 million from three critical areas, biomedical research, anti-poverty programs and healthcare to develop a Zika vaccine to combat the virus. The White House said it had to resort to “extraordinary measures” because Republicans in Congress refused to approve the spending because they refuse to help Americans as their raison d’être. Republicans would not approve one penny to combat a dangerous virus unless Democrats and the President also banned Planned Parenthood from providing contraception related to protecting Americans from the nasty virus which can be sexually transmitted.
The Health and Human Services Secretary, Silvia Burwell, sent a letter to members of Congress warning that without the $81 million diversion, the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority would lack funds to confront mosquito-borne virus by month’s end. As acquired cases of Zika infection are rising rapidly in the South, Burwell said without shifting funding around there will be no vaccination completed. She also said that besides the 7,350 cases reported thus far, there have been “15 infants born with Zika-related birth defects such abnormal brain development and other serious defects in children born to infected mothers.”
Burwell also wrote in her letter to Congress;
“The failure to pass a Zika emergency supplemental has forced the administration to choose between delaying critical vaccine development work and raiding other worthy government programs to temporarily avoid these delays.”
Democrats did seize on the “extraordinary measures” and assailed Republicans for refusing to provide the funding to combat the virus. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to summon Congress out of its 5-week hiatus to advance a measure to provide what’s needed to save American lives; appropriate funding to prevent robbing the money from anti-poverty and healthcare programs. Ms. Pelosi said, “Every possible option is being exhausted, and now we’re going into the National Institutes of Health, which is supposed to be a priority.”
The priority for Republicans, besides yet another fully-paid 5-week vacation, is using money allotted to feed the poor, elderly, and children to develop a vaccine. An aide to Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan said “shifting the funds was a long-overdue step the Obama Administration had delayed to squeeze maximum political advantage out of the Zika issue.”
First, it is the United States Congress’ job to deliver funding to provide for the general welfare of the American people; not the President. And second, one wonders how agreeable Republicans would be to shifting funds from another “program;” such as their salaries, 5-week vacation pay, and healthcare and retirement benefit packages to pay for the research. Most Americans would agree that shifting Republican congressional representatives’ salaries when they aren’t even working is a better fix than taking money from the poor. Hillary Clinton didn’t mention docking Republicans’ salaries for going on break without funding Zika research, but she did press Congress to get off its collective behinds and return from its fully-paid 5-week vacation and approve emergency funding to fight the virus.
This is another case where President Obama has had to make a difficult choice, and take assertive action to do what congressional Republicans refuse to even consider. It is growing more apparent every day that Republicans have no interest whatsoever in protecting Americans unless they can take something else from those who really need protecting. Let’s face it; not appropriating Zika funding unless Planned Parenthood is banned from providing contraceptives to combat spreading the virus is nearly as despicable as going on a 5-week paid vacation instead of doing their jobs; something Barack Obama is having to do yet again.