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Checking for the presence of mosquito larvae in Broward County where officials are concerned about the spread of the Zika virus. (AP) Checking for the presence of mosquito larvae in Broward County where officials are concerned about the spread of the Zika virus. (AP)

Checking for the presence of mosquito larvae in Broward County where officials are concerned about the spread of the Zika virus. (AP)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg August 4, 2016

Paul Ryan blames Dems for Zika stalemate, omits key detail

The latest poster child for gridlock in Washington is congress’ inability to pass a Zika funding bill. Florida has home-grown cases and has started aerial spraying. Meanwhile, a $1.1 billion aid package sits on ice.

House Speaker Paul Ryan put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Democrats.

In an USA Today op-ed, Ryan said his side compromised plenty to move the bill forward. The Senate passed a bill that called for $1.1 billion, all in "new" money, that is, not pulled from existing funds. The House wanted much less. When the two sides got together to resolve the differences, the House came up to the $1.1 billion mark and paid for it with a mix of new and existing money.

"Unfortunately, when this plan went to the Senate for a vote, Democrats derailed it," Ryan wrote. "This was despite months of calling for action, and even voting in favor of that exact funding level just weeks prior. They blocked our plan not once, but twice — a blatant ploy in an election year. Because of their actions, this funding is in limbo."

Ryan has the sequence of events right, but he leaves out one part.

When House and Senate negotiators got together in their conference committee, Republicans added a clause to block any money going to an affiliate of Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico.

On the Senate floor in June, Florida Democrat Bill Nelson argued that this would limit access "to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects." He said the House measure was not "a serious solution."

Without Democratic support, the bill never made it to a straight up or down vote.

We previously fact-checked Nelson’s claim that the Planned Parenthood ban would limit access to care.

Here’s a map of the clinics that would get money under the bill.

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While this shows a few areas without a clinic, it turns out the Planned Parenthood affiliate doesn’t fill any of those gaps. A public health researcher told us that Planned Parenthood reaches younger and poorer women, but on balance, we rated Nelson’s claim Half True. There would be some reduction in access, but not based on where women live. In theory, they could find care elsewhere in their community.

So where does that leave us with Ryan’s claim?

He is correct that Senate Democrats agreed to a $1.1 billion plan. But the bill they approved did not have the Planned Parenthood funding ban. To that extent, the bill they rejected was a different bill. Those differences were anti-abortion measures inserted by House Republicans.

There were other changes, but the Planned Parenthood element was the one mentioned most often.

Our ruling

Ryan said Democrats blocked the Zika funding bill after agreeing on the dollar amount. That part is accurate, but the main reason Democrats gave for their action was the Republican addition of language that barred a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Puerto Rico from receiving government funds.

Democrats could have chosen to accept that provision and passed the bill. On the other hand, Republicans could have chosen not to add it during the conference committee.

It took two to tango. Accordingly, we rate this claim Half True.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/a3846eb7-58d6-406b-8b3e-648407f92f9e

Our Sources

USA Today, Drop the politics, put health first: Paul Ryan, Aug. 3, 2016

PolitiFact, Democrats stretch impact of Planned Parenthood exclusion in Zika bill, June 28, 2016

Health Resources and Services Administration, Data portal

Peter Shin, et. al, Puerto Rico’s Community Health Centers in a Time of Crisis, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, Dec. 14, 2015

Primary Care Association - Puerto Rico, Primary health centers map, accessed June 27, 2016

Health and Human Services Department, HHS awards $5 million to Puerto Rico health centers to fight the spread of Zika virus, April 26, 2016

Clinica Preven, Servicios, accessed June 28, 2016

Email interview, Michael Ricci, communications director, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Office, Aug. 4, 2016

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Paul Ryan blames Dems for Zika stalemate, omits key detail

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