TO: Interested Parties
DATE: August 8, 2016
RE: Republican Senate Majority Enjoys Its 7 Week Vacation as Zika Spreads
The Republican Senate majority’s decision to head home for a seven-week recess last month without providing critical funding to fight the Zika virus is perhaps the greatest sign yet that the Republicans, and their irresponsible penchant for reckless partisan obstructionism, are simply not working. With Zika-carrying mosquitoes spreading the virus in Miami, the dangerous results of their political games are now clear to families all across the country who should be able to count on their elected officials to address a public health crisis. While Republicans continue to reject commonsense solutions, Democratic Senators and Senate candidates urge their colleagues to return to Washington and authorize emergency spending to fight Zika.
Republicans Tried to Push Anti-Women’s Health Agenda on Clean Zika Bill
Senate Republicans dragged their feet for months on Zika funding, even as thousands of Americans, including more than 900 pregnant women, contracted the virus or showed signs of infection. While they initially agreed to a clean bill, the Republicans resorted to their now standard political games and attempted to use the bill to advance an anti-women’s health agenda.
The bill Senate Republicans decided to rally behind would have restricted funding for family planning facilities, even though the virus is most dangerous to pregnant women because of its potential to cause birth defects.
Just this week, Senator Marco Rubio – whose own constituents have been infected with the spreading Zika virus – said that women with Zika should not have the right to an abortion. This is a truly extreme and shocking position showing just how far Rubio will go to prevent women from making their own healthcare decisions.
Not only would the bill have restricted funding for women’s health services when they are needed most, but it also would have cut funding to fight the Ebola virus and stripped funding from the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance to more than 19 million Americans. The complete legislation would have also reduced VA funding by $500 million while removing a bipartisan provision to ban Confederate flags from federal facilities.
Republicans could have worked across the aisle and put the health and safety of American families before their party. But instead they chose to put political posturing ahead of the health and safety of their constituents.
Instead of Providing Funding, Republicans Gave Themselves a Seven-Week Vacation
What did the Republican Senate majority do after their unworkable partisan bill failed?
Instead of staying in Washington to ensure funding could be provided, they gave themselves a seven-week paid vacation in the middle of peak mosquito season.
This is the same Senate majority that has worked the fewest days in 60 years, Republicans thought they deserved the longest recess in decades.
Democrats Call on Republicans to Act Responsibly and Return to Washington to Deal with Crisis
In the weeks since Republicans returned home for recess, the Zika crisis in the United States has only gotten worse. The first case of Zika being transmitted locally was confirmed in Florida over a week ago, with the risk of it spreading across the country increasing.
That’s why Senate Democrats are pushing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring Congress back from recess and pass a clean measure to provide funding to fight the virus. More than 40 Senate Democrats penned a letter to McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday, urging them to reconvene the Senate so efforts to develop a vaccine and counter the spread of Zika can begin.
Democratic Senate candidates from Missouri to Florida are calling on their opponents to return to Washington to address this immediate crisis. Missouri Senate candidate Jason Kander has repeatedly called on Senator Roy Blunt to get back to work on Zika, and a group of Missouri doctors and nurses wrote a letter to Blunt imploring him to do the same. Iowa Senate candidate Patty Judge had a similar call, saying “There’s an epidemic of partisanship in Chuck Grassley’s Washington preventing us from stopping an epidemic of Zika virus.” And Patrick Murphy stood with President Obama and called on Congress to return and immediately fund the research and prevention efforts required to combat the virus.
Democratic Senators and Senate candidates understand that working to keep Americans safe and healthy takes precedence over a summer vacation.
Bottom Line: Voters Want a Senate That Will Protect Them
As Zika spreads, it’s crucial that Republicans stop their partisan games and return from their seven-week paid vacation to address this public health crisis. This time, there should be no political point scoring. Republicans should work across the aisle to pass a clean funding bill that can get needed funding distributed as quickly as possible. If they do not, voters will remember how Republicans put their own partisanship above the safety of our families, and will elect Democratic Senators in November who put protecting Americans’ safety and health first.