Washington Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray secured a bipartisan deal with a Republican colleague for an emergency request for Zika funding.
CALL it desperate optimism, but a U.S. Senate vote scheduled for Tuesday might represent a hairline fracture in years of partisan gridlock in Congress.
The issue is emergency funding to fight the Zika virus, a global-health menace that has shown up in the U.S. — 1,200 U.S. cases, including its territories. Three cases have been reported in Washington state, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s office.
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness transmitted between humans. The illness can appear mild, but the World Health Organization is fearful of the neurological and autoimmune complications. A pregnant woman can pass the disease to her baby, with devastating effects.
The hazards are real, known and well-established, but Republicans in Congress have long blocked President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to launch America’s response to the threat.
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Public health and safety threatened to take a back seat to partisan obstruction. Instead of the art of the possible and compromise, the response had been “No!”
Credit U.S. Sens. Murray, D-Wash., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., with negotiating a deal to provide emergency funding. As planned, the compromise will be offered as an amendment to a spending bill that covers military construction and veterans programs with transportation and housing spending.
In the essence of political compromise, no one gets all he or she wants. Democrats strongly favor the $1.9 billion sought by the White House. Republicans would vote for $1.1 billion if it came out of the Affordable Care Act.
Murray and Blunt — who chairs the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies — crafted a third path. Their amendment offers a straightforward $1.1 billion to fight Zika, designed to attract support from both parties.
The option does not please either side, but that’s politics. Compromise and progress go hand in hand.
Then, of course, the spending bill goes to the U.S. House, where the partisan budgetary fumbling is only worse.
Zika is a public threat that will only get worse and cost a lot more money if it is not confronted in its early stages. The truly conservative path is to take immediate action now to protect citizens and, in the long term, taxpayer dollars.