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GOP: Zika? Who cares? We want to fly the Confederate flag!

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Everybody knows the Zika virus is a menace. Last month the Centers for Disease Control issued an unprecedented travel warning” to pregnant women, and repeated that warning on Monday, adding that women in susceptible groups should get tested for the virus.”

Considering the seriousness, President Obama and Senate Democrats urged Congress, one month ago, to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funding, a reasonable enough request, given Zika’s epidemic status in Brazil, where in addition to brain encephalopathy, other viral infections connected to the disease, including hearing loss in infants, are being reported.

Reasonable enough, also, given that the World Health Organization says that More than two billion people are at risk of developing the Zika virus.”

Yet to date, Congress failed to move forward a… funding package to help the country address the outbreak of Zika,” reported ABC News yesterday.

Why the inaction? Because Republicans are trying to festoon a Zika-appropriation bill with their other pet projects, including t[aking] aim at Planned Parenthood funding, end[ing] pesticide regulation, and…allow[ing] the Confederate Flag to be flown at military cemeteries.”

Historic metaphor time [stay with me here]:

Back in the 1940s, when F.D.R. was trying to persuade Americans to approve Lend-Lease to help Great Britain in her war against Hitler, the President resorted to a homely analogy. Britain needed ships and other materials now, he said, and could not wait for endless political machinations to wend their way through Congress. His analogy was to a house catching fire. “Let me give you an illustration,” he began. “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire. Now, what do I do? I don’t say to him before that operation, ‘Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.’ What is the transaction that goes on? I don’t want $15–I want my garden hose back after the fire is over. All right. If it goes through the fire all right, intact, without any damage to it, he gives it back to me and thanks me very much for the use of it. But suppose it gets smashed up–holes in it–during the fire; we don’t have to have too much formality about it, but I say to him, ‘I was glad to lend you that hose; I see I can’t use it any more, it’s all smashed up.’ He says, ‘How many feet of it were there?’ I tell him, ‘There were 150 feet of it.’ He says, ‘All right, I will replace it.’ Now, if I get a nice garden hose back, I am in pretty good shape.”

F.D.R.’s point was that, when the crisis is upon you, you act to end it immediately; you don’t haggle over ridiculous details. Yet that is precisely what these Congressional Republicans are doing.

We have an outbreak of a deadly disease on our shores, and the Republicans are tying it to defunding Planned Parenthood—a fight they cannot otherwise win. Really? Zika is sickening if not killing babies in Florida, and Republicans prefer instead to make fighting Zika dependent on allowing the Confederate flag to fly. Really?

What the hell is going on?

What’s going on, friends, is what’s known as a “poison pill.” Republicans know that Zika funding is badly needed, and is being demanded by the public. So they attach unrealistic and highly partisan stipulations to Obama’s proposed funding legislation, in the hope that the President won’t dare to veto it—which, by the way, he has threatened to do.

Let’s just focus in on one of the more absurd poison pills, the Confederate flag thing. Who’s in back of the preposterous proposal to let the Stars and Bars fly high? One of its prime backers is New Jersey Republican Congressman Scott Garrett. He may not be from the Deep South, but “he has more in common with rural Alabamans than the people of northern New Jersey.” This is the same Rep. Garrett who said he opposes same-sex marriage as a man of faith” and who added that he would not support the National Republican Congressional Committee—his own party’s organizational arm—“because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries.”

Garrett is a Bible-thumper who home-schooled his children because, he said, he and his wife could find no high school offering a Christian education.” He was an early Trump endorser whose Twitter feed is a shopping-list of rightwing craziness: Keeping Gitmo open to “stop terrorists from having the chance to attack America,” warning against “tyrannical government bureaucracies” and “Washington elites,” and attacking Hillary Clinton every chance he gets. (Incidentally, is Garrett himself a Washington elite? He’s been a Congressman for 13 years. Sounds pretty insidery to me.)

This is your modern Republican party, folks, your extremist religious Trump supporters who can’t wait to appoint the next few Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obamacare, and see if they can get the Court to make gay marriage once again illegal.

And what about the Zika virus? Ask Rep. Garrett why he’s holding Zika funding hostage to his pet rightwing obsessions. If he loves babies so much, why is he letting them die? While you’re at it, ask every Republican you meet the same questions. We have a crisis now. It’s time to lend our neighbor, who is ourself, the fire hose to put out the fire.

  1. This is the same Rep. Garrett who said “he opposes same-sex marriage as a man of faith”
    Since he’s a man of faith, I think it’s only fair that he be given permission not to enter into a homosexual marriage.

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