Washington: Government research into finding a vaccine to protect against the Zika virus is likely to be delayed if Congress exits Washington through Labor Day without approving new money to battle the virus, a top government research scientist said.
The delay in funding vaccine development is perhaps the most damaging result of a divided Washington's inability to agree on an anti-Zika funding bill five months after President Barack Obama's request.
"It's going to take that much longer to prove that the vaccine works," said Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who says testing next January on a promising vaccine faces delays.
"If it takes that much longer to prove that it works then you take that much longer to get it out to the people who need it."
The impasse on Zika shows no signs of softening, even though taking a seven-week vacation without addressing the problem could be politically perilous for both Republicans controlling Congress and Democrats blocking Republicans' USD 1.1 billion take-it-or-leave-it measure to battle the virus.
Congress will also exit Washington with no action on gun control and little success in its efforts to open up and revive the process of passing the 12 annual spending bills.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., following the killing of five police officers in Dallas and protests by activists after police killed black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota, officially shelved efforts to move bitterly contested legislation that would let federal authorities block gun sales to suspected terrorists.
"The action is to go back to our communities and have a candid conversation about the challenges we face as a country," Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, said, adding that "there's no need for us to try to cram a majority position
down at this point."
Partisan tensions over guns have been high since a mass hooting in Orlando, Florida, last month.
House Democrats staged a lengthy House floor sit-in two weeks ago to demand gun control votes. Ryan said he feels it is the wrong time to further inflame the situation.
On Zika, however, the blame game was full on. Democrats last month filibustered a GOP-drafted Zika measure, largely over provisions in the bill to block Planned Parenthood from receiving money.
A revote is expected to produce the same result this week, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has rejected efforts to reopen the measure, which faces a veto threat from the White House.
Obama requested USD 1.9 billion in February to battle Zika, but Congress has moved slowly in response.