House Republicans refused to fund early efforts to prevent the spread of the zika virus from Brazil to Puerto Rico and into the United States. New reports indicate that Miami’s internationally known Wynwood Arts District neighborhood has the first local transmission of the disease which causes fever symptoms, can be spread through sexual contact, and is known to cause horrendous birth defects in pregnant women.
If you told Congress that a terrorist was going to unleash a biological weapon on Americans that would leave them sick, and cause birth defects, they’d be falling all over themselves to fund the fight. Unfortunately, our Republican led Congress isn’t so worried about the mosquito borne zika virus, so instead they’re on an eight week vacation.
Ironically, their vacation leaves densely populated Miami, one of America’s top international vacation destinations, vulnerable to a difficult to fight mosquito-borne infection.
“I have a wife who’s 5 months pregnant, so we’re terrified of the Zika virus,” said Democratic congressional candidate Scott Fuhrman who is running a tough race against 27-year incumbent Republican congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, “this is something that was fully preventable. All the medical experts said that the only thing was missing was resources to get to work on a vaccine and prevention measures, but the will of congress was missing.”
The pennywise decision by our wise House of Representatives led by Speaker Paul Ryan, and now the pound foolishness is coming. President Obama and our Center for Disease Control successfully helped African nations extinguish an Ebola outbreak before it reached our shores. When President Obama asked for $1.9 billion dollars in funding for scientific research and research prevention efforts to protect South Florida, the Republican led lower House of Congress left millions of citizens twisting in the wind.
“My opponent – Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – where was she for this?” asked Fuhrman of his opponent in Florida’s 27th congressional district covering the south east part of Miami, “she’s been in office for nearly three decades now and she wasn’t able to bring home the bacon. So this is a critical issue affecting her community. She wasn’t out front, she wasn’t pounding the lectern in the House of Representatives.”
“She only made one comment after the bill had already gone down.”
Fuhrman said that when Speaker Ryan’s hometown of Janesville needed emergency flood funds, Congress didn’t seek to offset the spending with cuts to other programs. But President Obama’s request was met with a Republican demand to de-fund Planned Parenthood to pay to fight the Zika virus.
Even the failed Republican Senator Rubio from Florida asked for funds, but had so little sway in Republican congressional circles, he might as well have waited until both houses of congress left on vacation – and they actually left on an early vacation this year – to beg for assistance with Florida’s public health. But at the time Rubio was too busy endorsing Trump and breaking his campaign promise to quit Congress to accomplish anything to fight zika virus – except for proving to Florida voters why Rubio’s time in the Senate has been wasted, if he bothers to show up or not.
Americans trust Congress with billions of dollars and the finest medical facilities at the CDC to tackle challenges too big for cities or states to handle, and Republicans have clearly and obviously failed in their mission to protect public health. It’s time for a vote for change, to let Democrats do the difficult job of governing, because the other party has abdicated their sacred responsibility to protect our public health and wellbeing.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition