Senate Republicans are being accused of politicizing a major public health crisis on Tuesday after a bill to fund Zika virus research failed because the GOP packed the legislation with "extreme and unnecessary partisan priorities."
"In a 52-48 vote, the Senate fell eight votes short of moving past a procedural hurdle against the House-Senate conference report on a military and veterans spending bill, which includes $1.1 billion to fund the Zika virus research," The Hill reports.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) reportedly broke with his party and voted for the deal while GOP Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted against. As The Hill notes, "McConnell's 'no' vote allows him to bring the measure back up for another vote."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took to social media to express her disgust for the legislation and lawmakers behind it.
According to Warren, not only does the bill provide $800 million less than the White House had requested—stealing money from both the Ebola response fund and the Affordable Care Act healthcare exchanges—but it also "blocks Planned Parenthood from receiving birth control grant money that would help poor women with Zika avoid having deformed babies," rolls back Clean Water Act requirements designed to keep pesticides out of drinking water, and slashes U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs funding by $500 million.
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Reportedly also included in the bill is a measure that would permit the Confederate flag to fly at veterans cemeteries.
"Is this some sort of sick joke?" Warren asked, calling out the Senate GOP.
I didn’t think the GOP could write 1 bill to hurt women, vets, Obamacare, PP, AND clean water all at once – but they did it. #Zika— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 28, 2016
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives last week before the lower house departed for its July 4th recess. Ahead of Tuesday's vote, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other top Democrats sent a letter to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) calling for a new round of negotiations.
"We are writing to urge your cooperation in quickly negotiating an agreement that rejects politicizing disaster response with extreme and unnecessary partisan priorities," the letter states. However, according to The Hill, "GOP leadership have given no indications they are willing to rethink the current agreement," and McConnell said lawmakers would vote again after the holiday.
The partisan stalemate is likely to erupt as concern over the Zika virus grows. "The attack ads this time write themselves," note Politico's Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn.
Indeed, Senate Republicans are already spinning the failed bill as Democrats "standing in the way of #Zika funding to protect women and babies." Or as Sen. John Thune (R-SD) put it: "D's are more interested in pacifying a special-interest group than they are in actually doing anything about #Zika."