Updated June 28 at 1:58 p.m. Eastern
NEWS BRIEF Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday blocked funding efforts to battle the Zika virus, all but ensuring that Congress will miss its self-imposed July 4 deadline to approve emergency aid ahead of a summer season that may see the virus spread inside the United States.
The bill, which had already passed the House, failed to win the 60 votes it needed to break a filibuster as senators fell almost entirely along party lines in a 52 to 48 tally. Democrats opposed provisions restricting funding to Planned Parenthood and spending cuts that Republicans insisted on including to offset part of the $1.1 billion in money earmarked for Zika prevention and treatment. Republicans routinely try to bar money from Planned Parenthood because the nonprofit group is an abortion provider, but Democrats assailed the restrictions in the Zika bill because they argued that family-planning services were critical in preventing transmission of the virus. “We know Zika can be sexually transmitted,” Senator Charles Schumer of New York said in a floor speech. “We know that it poses the biggest danger to pregnant women and their unborn children, many of whom rely on health centers and Planned Parenthood as their primary health-care provider, but Republicans can’t miss a chance to whack Planned Parenthood, even if their services are exactly what can help prevent the spread of this debilitating virus.”
While the final bill does not mention Planned Parenthood specifically, it routes the money in a way that walls off the funds from family-planning clinics. An earlier version put the money into a different block grant that would have allowed Planned Parenthood to receive some of it. Some of the $1.1 billion is directed toward researching Zika and developing a vaccine, while other funds are earmarked for health services like treatment and prevention.