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Zika’s Budget Bite

Posted May 19th, 2016 at 6:03 pm (UTC-4)
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While there is near unanimity about the dangers posed by the Zika virus, there’s a political split over funding the fight against it.
President Barack Obama sent Congress a request in February for $1.9 billion in emergency funding “to respond to Zika virus transmission across the United States and internationally.”
Tuesday, the Senate approved a $1.1 billion Zika funding measure. Late Wednesday, the House of Representatives said yes to $622 million, a little more than half of what the Senate passed and about one-third of what the President asked. The White House says it will continue to press for its full request.
As the two houses of Congress try to find common ground on how much to spend, the disease is already making inroads into U.S. territory.
On Friday, a pregnant Puerto Rican woman’s fetus was determined to have developed microcephaly, the birth defect associated with Zika, becoming the first American so diagnosed.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control estimates hundreds of thousands in Puerto Rico will be infected by the Zika virus this year.
There will be more. Summer travel plans are being changed. Decisions to send young American athletes to the Olympics in Brazil are being scrutinized. And some couples are questioning whether it’s a good time to get pregnant.
All of that will be part of the political calculations of a public health crisis going forward.