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Blunt, McCaskill expect quick action on Zika when congressional recess ends next week

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Tom, via Flickr
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Missouri’s U.S. senators, who are at odds on some issues, do seem to share the same prediction when it comes to Zika, the dangerous virus spread by mosquitoes.

Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill both say Congress will finally take action within weeks to approve funding to fight the virus, which has gained a foothold in Florida.

Blunt had made a similar prediction for swift action in May, before the Senate compromise bill he cosponsored got caught up in a battle with GOP conservatives in the U.S. House, who passed a version that included restrictions on Planned Parenthood.

Senate Democrats blocked the House bill.  As a result, Congress left town in July for a six-week recess without any action.

In an indirect jab at House Republicans, Blunt said in an interview Monday that the Senate compromise should have been passed and sent on to the president.

“You can always come back and revisit these things later, but in my view nothing was gained by not getting this done before Congress left in July,” Blunt said.

McCaskill, in turn, contended that House Republicans were to blame for the delay.

“I think there were some games being played,” she said. “Some of the things that were put in the Zika bill in the House were intentionally put in there because they knew it would kill the bill. I mean, you don’t put Confederate flags and shutting down funding for birth control in a Zika bill if you’re serious about getting a Zika bill passed.”

Blunt has come under fire from his Democratic rival, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, for failing to use his Senate clout to get action  on Zika before the congressional recess.

“Public health experts are clear — every day that Congress fails to act on Zika is another day that compounds the risk of an epidemic,” said Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Will Baskin-Gerwitz in a statement earlier this month.

McCaskill predicts that the partisan sniping will less apparent in September, largely because of the rising number of Zika cases in the United States. Among other things, the virus can cause serious birth defects.

“I think now that we’ve had the problems that we’ve seen in Florida, I would assume that there would be a different attitude and we’d get a Zika bill like we passed in the Senate,” McCaskill said. “It wasn’t everything the administration wanted. But it was a significant amount of funding and it was important – and it was a clean bill. There were no poison pills put in the bill to kill it. And it was a big bipartisan margin in which in passed the Senate. Lots and lots of Republicans voted for it. So I’m hoping we can get the Senate bill when we get back.”

Blunt, by the way, singled out praise for the bill from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Reporter Jason Rosenbaum provided information for this article.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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