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Steve Knight: Don’t hold Zika solutions hostage

Posted: August 12, 2016 5:26 p.m.
Updated: August 13, 2016 2:00 a.m.
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The Zika virus poses an enormous threat to our public safety. Nearly 90 infections have been reported in California, and it is only a matter of time before someone in our community is harmed by this dangerous virus.

The federal government has a duty to act to prevent the spread and prevent this crisis from escalating even further.

Many of my colleagues and I recognized this fact months ago. That is why I came out in strong support for the Zika Response Appropriations Act, which passed the House of Representatives on May 26 of this year.

This bill would provide $622.1 million to fight this dangerous virus from all directions.

That means funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support mosquito control efforts, but the bill doesn’t stop there. It also has resources for the National Institutes of Health to help expedite the research and development of Zika vaccines.

It even includes money for health programs targeted at prenatal care, delivery and postpartum care, newborn health assessments, and care for infants with special needs related to Zika.

What’s more, the money is being responsibly allocated. Most of the funds provided would be offset with money that was set aside to combat Ebola but went unused, along with other administrative funds for the Department of Health and Human Services that would otherwise sit untouched in agency accounts or be used for unauthorized purposes, including dollars meant for a new health care exchange for Puerto Rico that has since been canceled.

Contrary to some rumors, funds for government Zika initiatives are not paid for by reductions to the Children Health Insurance Program, and we have no plans to do so.

If passed, this allocation would supplement the $600 million that was already reallocated by various agencies in the executive branch in April to combat Zika, of which the administration has only spent about a tenth as of last month.

If we do some quick math, that means the president should have around $1.2 billion to contain this threat and treat those who were affected.

Unfortunately, this crucial effort is being held as a political hostage and is currently stalled in the Senate. Instead of doing their jobs, some senators are using the issue as a way to attract press in an election year.

Filibustering, finger-pointing and shameless posturing are getting in the way of doing what is right for the American people. This is wrong, and it needs to stop.

The threat of Zika will not go away until we take action to make it go away. It may be an election year, but that doesn’t justify putting our citizens’ health at risk to score political points.

I am calling on the Senate to quit its partisan games and pass the Zika Response Appropriations Act as soon as possible.

Let’s be adults and do the right thing.

Steve Knight is the Republican congressional representative for the Santa Clarita Valley and other surrounding areas in the 25th Disrict.

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