Congress fails the public so often these days that it almost seems like a waste of time to point out yet another case where it’s failed to do its job.
But passively accepting congressional inability get anything done as the new norm would be akin to giving up on America.
So it behooves taxpayers to voice frustration that Congress bolted out of Washington D.C. earlier this month before approving funding to fight the Zika virus.
Not all members of Congress are so cut off from reality that they were unaware of what they were about to do. “This is why people hate Congress. This is why people hate Washington,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Washington, said at a Capitol Hill hearing.
And Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said, “The fact that funding has not flowed is inexplicable to people, on an issue like this of a public health nature.”
The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency. The epidemic came to public attention with an outbreak in Brazil and the birth of several thousand babies with microcephaly. So far the epidemic has struck only lightly in the United States.
About 1,300 cases of Zika infection have been diagnosed in the United States. As of last month seven babies had been born here with Zika-related birth defects; in all of those cases the mother was infected in another country.
The virus is most often transmitted by mosquito. Officials also have determined that it can be spread through sex. Medical experts are still learning about the virus. In a case reported this week, the son of a man who died from the virus somehow became infected. Medical authorities have not determined how he contracted the disease.
In most cases, it should be quickly noted, the virus produces only a mild illness that lasts only a few days. There have been cases reported in Nebraska, but they became infected in other countries. Nebraskans should be more worried about West Nile than the Zika virus.
Nonetheless, one of the mosquitos that carries the virus is found in Nebraska, and it may be only a matter of time before it spreads to the Midwest.
In a more enlightened era members of Congress might have debated the advisability of using genetically modified mosquitos to eliminate as much as 90 percent of the mosquitos that carry the virus.
But Congress, as habitually does, played partisan games. Some – not all --Republican members of the House loaded up a Senate bill with numerous poison pill amendments, including one far-flung provision that would have undone the ban on flying the confederal flag at national cemeteries. Naturally the funding bill went nowhere.
The next time you feel a bite from one of the little blood-sucking insects that might be carrying the Zika virus, you have good reason to be twice as annoyed as you ordinarily would be.