Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Politics

Romano: While Democrats and Republicans dither, Zika creeps closer

You've thrown the worst fear

That can ever be hurled

Fear to bring children

Into this world

Bob Dylan

Congratulations, Democrats. You too, Republicans.

Your partisan games have become so important to you that you've lost sight of your humanity.

The Zika virus has been on America's radar for nearly a year, and 535 members of Congress have done nothing but dither and deny. No consensus, no funding, no compassion.

So now the virus has reached our shores. It has drowned Miami in fear, and it has begun its inevitable creep toward Tampa Bay, as well.

The governor has pointed his finger at the president. The president has blasted Congress. Senate Democrats blame House Republicans.

Meanwhile, pregnant women are afraid to leave their homes.

Is this really the new portrait of American exceptionalism? Our elected leaders scheming to use a potentially devastating health crisis to their political benefit?

And before you start shouting that one side or the other deserves the lion's share of blame, do me a favor. Go online and look at pictures of infants born with Zika-related microcephaly.

Then we can talk about blame.

Because, from where I sit, no one is coming out of this with a sheen of righteous glory. Instead, the Capitol has devolved into a class of first-graders blaming each other for the mess they all made.

The recap, condensed to the most tolerable of details, sounds like this:

• President Obama requests $1.9 billion in emergency funds.

• House Speaker Paul Ryan pooh-poohs the request, saying money is available from other crisis accounts, including the ongoing fight against Ebola.

• The Senate approves $1.1 billion in funds.

• The House agrees to $1.1 billion but sneaks in provisions involving rules about the Confederate flag (!) and cuts to Planned Parenthood affiliates. The Senate refuses to approve the changes.

• Congress goes on summer break.

• The Zika virus spreads.

• Human decency suffers.

Maybe you think this is overblown and unworthy of such angst. You may be absolutely right. There's a chance, a year from now, this scare will seem like a forgotten rumor.

But there is no way anyone in D.C. can predict that with any conviction. At this moment, in this state, the threat should feel as real as any terrorist-related event.

So this cannot be dismissed as typical political dysfunction. This is senseless and heartless.

And the idea that Gov. Rick Scott has used it to take potshots at the White House, or that Rep. Patrick Murphy has treated it as fodder in a Senate race against Marco Rubio, is simply intolerable.

Political theatrics aside, this should be a simple sell. Practically automatic. A child's birth is one of the most precious events imaginable, and its anticipation should be a monthslong thrill ride.

No woman should be forced to spend those months cowering in fear. And no parent should leave a hospital with a brain-damaged child when it might have been avoidable.

For threatening my baby,

Unborn and unnamed

You ain't worth the blood

That runs in your veins

Bob Dylan

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Pasco Political Notebook for Aug. 17

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