Not to be confused with legislation that would fund the fight against the Zika virus, House Republicans have passed a separate bill that uses the cover of the virus to cut EPA regulations.
What was once known as the "Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act" in 2011 has been reintroduced as the "Zika Vector Control Act" of 2016 and passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
If the bill becomes law, users can discharge pesticides into bodies of water without having to first apply to a permit with the EPA, and users won't have to tell the EPA if their pesticides end up in bodies of water. Currently, there are over a thousand waterways in the United States that are impaired because of pesticide use. But if this bill becomes law, that number could increase -- and users could end up spraying pesticides in bodies of water used for fishing or recreational activities.
For those who aren't aware, "vector control" refers to the control of pests that can spread pathogens such as Dengue fever or, in this case, the Zika virus.
Despite all outward appearances, however, this bill is not aimed at stopping the spread of the Zika virus. Local vector control agencies across the country already have the authority they need to control pests near waterways. What they don't have is funding; funding that Congress is still debating.
This is just about as shameless as it gets. They will undoubtedly blast Democrats and the White House for opposing their unrelated and deceptively-named bill to cut environmental regulations under the guise of fighting the Zika virus. The president isn't going to sign this into law.
As we covered here last week, the House and Senate have passed competing Zika funding bills that must be renegotiated by a conference committee. We could be right in the middle of Summer by the time they finish. IF they finish. I also doubt it would surprise anyone if Congress ends up passing a very short-term funding measure before they leave town for Summer recess a little over two months from now.