Obama says Congress must end deadlock on Zika funding

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday that he's confident a vaccine for Zika can be developed, but said Congress must end its deadlock on funding to combat the virus before lawmakers head out to recess later this summer.

U.S. has had 5 babies born with Zika-related birth defects and 5 Zika-related lost pregnancies

U.S. President Barack Obama talks to members of the media as he receives a briefing on the response to the Zika virus at the Oval Office in the in Washington, U.S., July 1, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday said Congress must end its deadlock on funding to combat the Zika virus before lawmakers head out to recess later this summer.

"The good news is we feel fairly confident that we can develop an effective vaccine for Zika," Obama said after a meeting with U.S. health officials in the Oval Office. "The problem is right now that money is stuck in Congress."

Obama met with the heads of the Health and Human Services Department, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the nation's response to the mosquito-borne virus.

Earlier this week, Senate Democrats blocked a Republican proposal to provide $1.1 billion US in funding to combat ZikaDemocrats and the White House said the plan fell short of Obama's $1.9 billion funding request and included measures that would take funds from other important health initiatives.

"We have not seen the House (of Representatives) and Senate come together in a sensible way to put forward the dollars that we have requested to get the job done," Obama said. "I expect Congress to get this funding done before they adjourn, as part of their basic responsibility."

U.S. lawmakers typically go on recess in August to go campaign for re-election in their home districts.

Following the deadlock, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have accused each other of playing politics with the health 
Therapist Rozely Fontoura holds Juan Pedro, who has microcephaly, in Recife, Brazil, in March. Therapeutic massage helps alleviate the baby's symptoms but a doctor says offering services to families is a challenge for the country's health-care system. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)
 Zika has caused concern throughout the Americas due to an alarming rise in cases of the birth defect known as microcephaly and other severe fetal brain abnormalities linked to the virus reported in Brazil, the country hardest hit by the outbreak.

Infants with microcephaly tend to have abnormally small heads and may experience potentially disabling developmental  problems.

While Obama said there have not been any cases reported of local transmission of the virus in the continental United States, he said the nation is home to mosquitoes that carry the virus.

"It is absolutely critical for the United States government, working in concert with other governments in the hemisphere, to be pushing hard right now to get this situation under control," Obama said.

As of June 23, there have been seven babies born in the United States with microcephaly or other Zika-related birth defects such as serious brain abnormalities, and five lost pregnancies from either miscarriage, stillbirth or termination.     


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.