Congress returned to work on September 6 for its last legislative session before the
November presidential election. They return following seven weeks of congressional recess. Their return also comes nine months after the first case of Zika in Puerto Rico was reported and nearly two months following the emergence of the first locally-transmitted case of Zika in the continental U.S. After five days of arriving in D.C., Congress has already begun discussions of when they would leave again-possibly as early as next week. And through all this time we remain no closer to seeing a Zika-funding package.
Numerous local and federal agencies have warned of the dire impact Zika can have on public health. Patient-advocate and medical groups, including ABC, have made urgent pleas for action, yet Congress continues its stalemate on providing funding to help prevent the spread of Zika.
Congress’ action – or lack thereof – is of course driven by the creeping shadow of the general elections that will decide a new direction of the country for the first time in eight years. With contests heating up at all levels – presidential, congressional, and local – both sides of the aisle understand the impact a wrong step now can have in November.
It is time for Congress to realize that not acting on a Zika-funding package that helps fully combat Zika’s threat is that wrong step-not only for November, but for months and years to come. The elections are still 52 days away and the need to respond to the continuing spread of Zika is now. Congress must put policy before politics and do the job they were already elected to do, not the job they’re running for next.
Katherine Fry; Chief Administrative Officer