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US Senate blocks Zika funding for third time

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Washington: Republican and Democratic Senate leaders on Tuesday have again blocked a $1.1 billion plan to fight the Zika virus for the third time blaming the each other for inaction on critical bills and fund the government.

The Democrats have demanded the Republicans to drop an effort to block Planned Parenthood from receiving money to combat the mosquito-borne disease, the New York Times reported.

The Democrats, who had essentially blocked the same legislation in June, had enough votes on Tuesday to prevent Congress from moving emergency funding public health experts say was desperately needed as they prepared for the possibility that Zika will spread to other states along the gulf coast.

The vote was 52 to 46, and Republicans needed 60 votes to advance the bill, the New York Times reported.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, said that although efforts to fight the virus had produced encouraging results, the problem was far from over.

“It’s hard to explain why, despite their own calls for funding, Democrats would block plans to keep women and babies safe from Zika,” McConnell said before the vote.

If an agreement is not reached, the government could shut down on September 30, just a few weeks before the presidential and congressional elections, CNN reported.

However, several congressional Republicans suggested the Zika and government funding issues would be combined and resolved together ahead of the deadline.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Republicans had sabotaged efforts to address Zika by including the restrictions on Planned Parenthood.

“Now with this Zika virus frightening women all over America, they want to cut it off?” the New York Times reported citing Reid as saying before the vote.

As of late August, there were more than 16,800 Zika cases in the US, including Puerto Rico, which had the most.

According to the state Department of Health, Florida announced seven new Zika cases Tuesday, bringing the total number of homegrown cases in the state to 56, the New York Times added.

IANS

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