Politics pollutes Zika fight

“The House and Senate must return to Washington to provide the funding public health officials need to protect the American people. The impact of Zika on our country’s health and economy has never been greater and it continues to grow.”

That quote is from Senate Democrat Minority Leader Harry Reid on Aug. 19. Just two weeks later, Sen. Reid did return to Washington, where on Tuesday he led his Senate Democrat colleagues in blocking a bipartisan $1.1 billion Zika funding package for the third time. In the U.S. House of Representatives, we passed this bipartisan legislation more than two months ago.

The bill originally was broadly bipartisan and garnered near unanimous support. Democrats and Republicans came to a compromise on spending levels as Congress worked the way it’s supposed to. The $1.1 billion package tackled the virus from all angles, including funds for doctors and researchers to develop a vaccine, mosquito controllers to fight mosquito populations, and women’s health-care services for those in the affected areas.

But somewhere along the way, President Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Reid made a political calculation. They believed they could block the bill, blame Republicans, and use the bill’s failure as a talking point on the campaign trail.

Their public tagline for blocking the bill is that it hinders women’s access to contraceptives, specifically in Puerto Rico. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, this bipartisan legislation includes funding for 20 community health centers in Puerto Rico which served more than 300,000 residents last year. However, Senate Democrats insist the bill must include a specific earmark for Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico, despite the fact it served only 8,000 people last year. This may or may not have to do with the fact that Planned Parenthood donates to Democrat candidates across the country, but I’ll let you be the judge.

More disturbing than the obvious political calculation, however, is Democrats’ underlying belief that killing innocent babies is a necessary tool to fight Zika. Apparently, vaccine development, mosquito control, and contraceptives aren’t enough. How does one justify ending the lives of little babies impacted by Zika, rather than compassionately trying to heal them? Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:8 to heal the sick, and the Gospels are full of examples of Jesus caring for the sick. Why should we treat victims of Zika any differently?

Dealing with a public health crisis like the Zika virus should be above politics. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats see things differently. Nonetheless, I would urge my Senate Democrat colleagues to put down their partisan weapons and work with Republicans to find a solution that puts the needs of the American people above politics.

When the Obama Administration and big banks reach legal settlements related to the Great Recession, all the money goes to victims, right? Wrong. According to a recent Justice Department investigation, more than $500 million from recent settlements has been directed as “forced donations” to politically-connected special interest groups, who often lobby to be included in the settlement. Even worse, these forced donations often come at the expense of compensation to the real victims.

To incorporate more accountability and oversight into federal legal settlements, last week I joined House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to help pass the bipartisan Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, which blocks federal officials from requiring a charitable contribution as part of civil settlements. Justice Department settlements should punish the wrongdoer and compensate the victims, not turn into a politicized version of “bowling for dollars.”


Robert Pittenger, a Republican from Charlotte, represents the 9th District in the U.S. House, which includes all of Robeson County.

Robert Pittenger, a Republican from Charlotte, represents the 9th District in the U.S. House, which includes all of Robeson County.

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