Congress leaves Washington, its dysfunction on display


Congress leaves Washington, its dysfunction on display

Political gridlock is imperiling an effort on Capitol Hill to secure $1.1 billion for combating the spread of the Zika virus before Congress begins its summer recess next week.

As they left town, lawmakers passed a series of bipartisan bills, including the approval of new labeling rules for genetically modified crops and a new national policy for treating addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers.

One provision would allow Confederate flags at national cemeteries; another would prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico and funnel federal money to non-Planned Parenthood health clinics in that USA territory hit hardest by the virus.

Almost a year later, Democrats and Republicans still disagree on the proportion of spending for defense and non-defense activities.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Republicans want "to have a good conversation where we calm things down" after the shootings in Orlando and another mass shooting last week in Dallas that targeted police officers. "The Democrats for some reason or another made a decision to play politics with it".

Republican appropriators urged President Obama to use already available funding to respond to the Zika virus Thursday after Senate Democrats blocked a procedural vote on a spending bill that included funding for the virus for the second time. "He never had any intention of coming back to the negotiating table".

"Republicans chose to put their ideological battle against Planned Parenthood ahead of their responsibilities as legislators to help fight Zika", said Sen. "It's all been a charade".

But its passage would run into a veto threat from President Barack Obama and a certain filibuster from Senate Democrats. The GOP measure also cuts the budget of the EPA, an agency loathed by many Republicans.

The two sides have been warring in recent weeks, in part, over a provision that would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any of the funds.

The vote largely came down along with party lines, with Sens. The group represents public health departments. "This will be the eighth time this Congress that the Republican Leader has resorted to this tactic". Predictably, Democrats and Republicans are divided on whom, exactly, comes off with the worse image following the protracted debate, with the former deriding Republican leadership for being unable to pass a public health funding bill and the latter lambasting Democrats for playing partisan politics.

GOP efforts in both the House and Senate to restart the annual budget process hang by a thread, pointing to yet another take-it-or-leave-it trillion-dollar-plus bill this fall to keep the government open weeks before the election.

But the Republicans continue to refuse, making the current bill - a compromise Senate Republicans struck with House Republicans - a take-it-or-leave-it offer: either Democrats play along with the GOP's culture-war priorities, or there will be no federal response to the Zika threat.

Negotiations over a stop-gap spending bill in September will not necessary be easy.

That's why it was it was extremely disappointing to hear Republican leaders make clear last week that they think their job on Zika is done, even though after months of Republican foot-dragging, partisanship, and delay, we're just days away from Congress packing up and leaving-without taking action to protect communities nationwide from the Zika virus.

In the Senate, no proposal to prevent suspected terrorists from buying a gun could garner enough support to advance in the chamber.



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