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Washington Examiner: House lawmakers slam Zika funding request

February 25, 2016
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Washington Examiner - Robert King

House appropriators slammed President Obama's "budget busting" request for nearly $2 billion for fighting the Zika virus.

House lawmakers said they are dismayed the administration is asking for more emergency funds to take on another healthcare outbreak after shelling out money for Ebola two years ago. The administration asked Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency funds for Zika, a virus spread primarily through mosquito bites that is in more than 30 countries. The virus is mild in most people, but health officials believe there is a link between it and a birth defect called microcephaly.

"Where is the plan?" asked Andy Harris, D-Md., during a hearing Thursday of the House Appropriations Committee's Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies subcommittee.

Harris said he has heard of other agencies that have used Ebola funds to fight malaria.

"That is what you ought to do, not come in with a budget-busting $1.8 billion request," Harris said.

The "fundamental cost in Ebola and Zika has to do with public health for American people and not the money needed," Sylvia Burwell, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, told the panel.

Burwell said there have been 155 cases in the U.S., with scientists examining 14 cases of potential sexual transmission of the virus.

"You have seen the numbers," she said.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the subcommittee chairman, said "we are unlikely to be able to get mandatory funding of $1.8 billion."

Democrats were reticent to employ Ebola funds.

"I would be anxious to know what activities we have to forego if we shift funds form Ebola to Zika," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the full committee.

Online: Washington Examiner