Get the Zika bill done now, Mr. Speaker

FUNDING TO FIGHT THE Zika virus isn’t about abortion, Obamacare or the Confederate battle flag.

At least it shouldn’t be.

And it isn’t about which political party in Washington will look good or bad before the fall election.

Emergency funding to fight the spread of Zika is about preventing terrible brain damage and birth defects in newborns — including shrunken heads.

Congress should stop playing games and pass a clean Zika bill aimed squarely at diagnosing and preventing the disease so it doesn’t devastate more children and families.

Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and sex, is expanding in the United States, especially in Florida. And about 40 cases are confirmed in Wisconsin, involving people who have traveled outside the state to areas where Zika-carrying mosquitoes flourish.

Congress should approve $1.1 billion — without political strings attached — to help scientists and health officials defeat the disease.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, must rise above the petty politics that dominate Washington and rally his members to support a solid funding package that doesn’t go after Planned Parenthood or cut Obamacare or monkey with regulation of the Confederate flag. Those divisive and distracting political issues should be set aside for now.

GOP colleagues are right to search for existing dollars to pay for a Zika response, rather than borrowing $1.1 billion and adding it to the national debt. That’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.

But the president asked for Zika funding back in

February. And a spending bill is still stalled.

If Democrats won’t offset Zika funding by reducing spending elsewhere, we understand Ryan’s frustration. But given how many months have passed without an agreement, borrowing the money is better than allowing Zika to go unchecked. That’s because infected babies will cost far more to treat and care for than aggressively moving to prevent further infection.

U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Florida, whose constituents are on the front lines of the scary affliction, understands well the need for swift action.

“If we don’t move to spend a little bit now, we’re going to spend a lot more later,” he said this week, according to The Washington Times.

“We can’t spend a billion or two for babies, and for pregnant women?” he asked. “I mean, where’s our priorities?”

Good question.

Speaker Ryan and the rest of Congress should set aside their political squabbles and quickly pass a Zika bill. — Wisconsin State Journal, Sept. 16

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