McConell and Obama Meet to Plan Budget, Zika Response

President Barack Obama met with top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss the fall budget and decide on funding for fighting the Zika crisis. The must-pass funding bill is aimed at keeping the government running till December 9, when a new President will be instated. Both Obama and McConell seemed hopeful that the bill will go through and that the Zika crisis can be averted.

The Zika Crisis

The Zika virus seems to be spreading at alarming rates in the US with scientists estimating that around 670 pregnant women are suffering from the virus and around 17 babies have been born with microcephaly as a result of this. Last week, Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden proclaimed that the organization was literally out of money and that a whole new batch of babies could be born with microcephaly and other serious birth defects in the coming months. Since the upcoming funding bill is the only way to get funding for the prevention and control of the disease, lawmakers are hopeful of providing the necessary resources.

Obama was hopeful after the meeting and appreciated the constructive work that occurred during the meeting and resonated that he wanted the bill passed before Congress adjourned, before the election. McConell also stated that they wanted the funding to be wrapped up soon.

The opposition

The bill faces opposition from Conservative party members who are unwilling to release funds to Planned Parenthood. Obama first requested the funding in February but it was stalled since Congressional Republican leaders had other demands in mind. Senior Minority Leader Harry Reid has urged the Republicans to look past the Planned Parenthood aspect and focus on resolving the crisis instead. He also stated that Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with the funding.

Other matters

Also on the funding bill was the $2.8 billion that Louisiana Governor John Bell Edwards has requested to deal with the flooding damage in his state. Louisiana’s congressional delegation also sent Obama a letter earlier this week, urging the President to submit a disaster aid request so that the funding can be taken care of this year. After the current meeting, Obama said that they did talk about the issue but refused to comment on whether it was going to be added to the bill or not.

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