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House Democratic Leader Calls on Congress to Address Zika

  • Wayne Lee

FILE - A natural resources officer looks through a microscope at Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Pembroke Pines, Florida, June 28, 2016.

FILE - A natural resources officer looks through a microscope at Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Pembroke Pines, Florida, June 28, 2016.

U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats are calling on Republicans to hold an emergency session of Congress to address the Zika virus and other pressing issues.

Pelosi told reporters at a Thursday news conference on Capitol Hill that the administration of President Barack Obama may shift more money to combat Zika within the next day or two. But Pelosi called on Republicans to return to Washington to finish working on legislation that would provide funding for the virus.

The Obama administration asked for $1.9 billion in February, but the Republican-led House began discussing a $1.1 billion measure that stalled due to partisan bickering.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., left, and other members of the House Democratic leadership, call on Republicans who hold the majority in Congress to return to Washington from their recess to deal with urgent and unresolved issues like the Zika virus, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 11, 2016.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., left, and other members of the House Democratic leadership, call on Republicans who hold the majority in Congress to return to Washington from their recess to deal with urgent and unresolved issues like the Zika virus, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 11, 2016.

Republicans have said the Obama administration is sitting on unspent money that can be reallocated to fight the virus.

The Zika virus initially was detected in Brazil last year, and has since spread rapidly in the Americas. Twenty-one cases recently were discovered in the southeastern state of Florida, prompting the Obama administration to allocate almost $600 million to fight it.

Representative Rosa DeLauro said additional money is needed because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will exhaust its Zika funding by the end of September. Two other federal agencies, Delauro said, will run out of money by the end of August.

"The money is running out and our public health officials cannot combat this virus without additional funding," Delauro said. "Speaker [Paul] Ryan, call the House of Representatives back."

Congress is not scheduled to return to Washington until after the Labor Day holiday on September 5.

Although the virus is relatively mild in most cases, pregnant women who are infected with Zika risk giving birth to babies with a congenital defect called microcephaly, which causes an abnormally small head.

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