Zika funding bill falters as Florida reports microcephaly

US Capitol and flag
US Capitol and flag

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Senate Democrats today derailed a $1.1 billion Zika funding bill over objections to attached measures such as birth control restrictions, and Florida health officials reported a baby born with microcephaly to a woman from Haiti.

The latest funding glitch comes during mosquito season in many parts of the nation and puts Congress closer to a 7-week vacation period when neither chamber will be in session, which could further delay support for battling the disease.

Objections include limits to birth control access

The Senate's vote on the compromise measure that passed the House last week failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The nearly party line vote was 52 to 48.

Democrats opposed the attached Republican provision that bars federal grant money from providing services such as birth control to women in Puerto Rico who are at risk for the virus and its complications to unborn babies. Democrats also object to a part of the package that would temporarily lift permits for pesticide spraying near water sources, as well as spending cuts to other health measures. They have also pressed for Zika funding to include the full $1.9 billion requested by President Obama.

Last week Obama signaled that he would veto the bill for the same reasons. Obama originally requested the $1.9 billion to support the fight against Zika virus in February, and after months of inaction, lawmakers have been wrangling over the amount, cost offsets, and added provisions.

After the vote, Senators on both sides of the aisle took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

Sen Harry Reid, D-Nev., skewered the Republican add-ons, such as the reversal of a ban on flying the Confederate flag at military cemeteries. Sen Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tweeted, "If Senate Democrats believe Zika funding is so critical, why did they block the resources to combat it?"

It's unclear what the next steps are, but McConnell said the Senate would take up the measure again when it returns from an Independence Day recess on Jul 7, according to Roll Call, a Washington, D.C.–based political news provider.

Florida reports its first microcephaly case

The Florida Department of Health today confirmed its first Zika-linked microcephaly case, involving a child born to a woman who had traveled to the state from her home country of Haiti to deliver the baby, according to a statement.

Florida Health said it is working with the family to connect the child to its Early Steps program, which serves families of infants and toddlers who have developmental delays or a medical condition likely to result in a developmental delay.

The case appears to be the 10th Zika-affected pregnancy in the United States. Nine have now been reported in the states, all linked to travel to affected countries, and one has been reported in Puerto Rico.

Sexually transmitted Zika in South Carolina

South Carolina today reported its first sexually transmitted Zika case, in a state resident who had contact with someone who was infected with Zika while traveling abroad, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) said in its daily Zika update.

Because of federal privacy rules, officials didn't give any other details about the patient, such as physical condition, hospitalization, age, sex, or residence.

The report appears to boost the national number of sexually transmitted Zika cases to 13.

See also:

Jun 28 AP story

Sen Harry Reid Twitter account

Sen Mitch McConnell Twitter account

Jun 28 Roll Call story

Jun 28 Florida Health statement

Jun 28 SCDHEC Zika update

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