Congress cannot agree on Zika solution, GOP and Democrats blame each other

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Rep. David Jolly brought a prop Wednesday intended to buzz lawmakers into action on the Zika virus: A jar of 100 mosquitoes.

The Florida Republican never opened the jar, but said on the House floor: “I brought these mosquitoes here today to convey that fear and that anxiety of millions of Americans — Floridians.”

“Can you imagine, colleagues, the anxiety in this chamber if these 100 mosquitoes were outside this jar, not inside this jar? Members of Congress would run down the hall to the physician’s office to be tested. They would spray themselves before coming down here.”

Jolly said that anxiety “is the fear of Floridians, right here.”

“It is not good enough to work on a compromise for months and months and months with no solution. The time for politics of Zika is over. The politics of Zika are garbage right now. The fact that candidates are going to spend money on commercials about Zika instead of responding together in a bipartisan, bicameral way in a divided government to a public health crisis — Americans understand that we are wasting time.”

Jolly, who dropped a long-shot Senate bid earlier this year, has incentive to push for action on the Zika virus: He faces a tough re-election fight against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.

During the seven-week August recess Congress just completed, Jolly said cases of Zika in the United States climbed from 4,000 to “by some estimates more than 16,000.”

He represents Pinellas County, the home of St. Petersburg and Clearwater with nearly 1 million residents, and said his constituents “are scared.”

“In that fear, they are demanding action and they are seeing inaction. And in that inaction they are angry — angry,” Jolly said.

It wasn’t the only Zika-related prop used Wednesday. A 5-month-old baby, Jackie, and her mother, Emily Holumbowich, the executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding, attended news conferences with House and Senate Democrats.

Funding to combat the Zika virus has been a political football since Congress returned Tuesday.

In the Senate, on Tuesday night Democrats blocked a Zika funding bill, complaining that it included a provision to prevent funding for Planned Parenthood and no longer included a provision in the House bill banning Confederate flags from veterans’ cemeteries.

“Republicans were more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying the Confederate flag — can’t make this stuff up, that’s really the truth — than protecting women and babies from this awful virus,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said.

In a statement released Wednesday, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin blasted Republican leaders for politicizing the issue.

“Seven months ago, the president asked Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency funding so that public health experts would have the resources they needed to fight Zika. Here we are almost seven months later, 200 days later, and Congress still has refused to provide the resources necessary to protect American families from this virus. This is a disgrace. It is an outrage,” said Durbin. “I’m tired of the partisan games being played with the health of pregnant women and babies. To date, that’s exactly what’s happened with the partisan response to this Zika crisis. It’s time for this to stop.”

Republicans, meanwhile, blamed Democrats for the continued stalemate.

“It’s hard to explain why — despite their own calls for funding — Senate Democrats decided to block a bill that could help keep pregnant women and babies safer from Zika,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor.

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