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Obama delivers frustrated rebuke to Congress over Zika, Supreme Court inaction

With Congress back from its seven-week recess, President Obama issued a terse reminder for Republican lawmakers that a slew of time-sensitive issues are still awaiting legislative action, including Zika funding, aid for Louisiana’s recovery following torrential floods and the Supreme Court’s vacant seat.

“I’ve delivered a few hundred of these weekly addresses over the years,” the president said in a White House video published Saturday. “And you may have noticed a theme that pops up pretty often: The Republicans who run this Congress aren’t doing their jobs.”

The president outlined a list of priorities he’d like Republicans to tackle first -- with anti-Zika efforts topping the list.

“Even as we’re seeing more and more Zika cases inside the United States, they’ve refused to fund our efforts to protect women and children by fighting Zika in a serious way,” Mr. Obama said.

Though congressional Republicans proposed a $1.1 billion package on Zika before they adjourned for the August recess, Democrats blocked it because it fell far short of the president’s $2 billion request. Mr. Obama has warned in the past that “a fraction of the funding won’t get the job done.”

Of recovery efforts in Louisiana, the president said, “They still need to provide resources to help the people of Louisiana recover from last month’s terrible floods and to help communities like Flint recover from their own challenges.”

And hammering home the lack of action on Mr. Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, the president noted that he has been forced to “wait longer than any other in history for the simple courtesy of a hearing, let alone a vote.”

“All because they want their nominee for president to fill that seat,” the president said.

Mr. Obama ticked off several other legislative priorities, including criminal justice reform, tackling the opioid epidemic and finishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

“None of this should be controversial,” he said. “All of it is within our reach. This is America -- we can do anything. We just need a Congress that works as hard as you do.  At the very least, we should expect that they do their jobs -- and protect us from disease, help us recover from disaster, keep the Supreme Court above politics and help our businesses grow and hire.”

For the Republicans’ part, Rep. Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania delivered an address in celebration of Constitution Day.

The nation needs “to get back to basics regarding the fundamental freedoms our Constitution protects,” Rothfus said in a video Saturday. “We have seen threats, for example, to First and Second Amendment rights in recent years. Indeed, my own diocese of Pittsburgh, as well as the Little Sisters of the Poor, had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to protect the right to exercise their religion against an overbearing regulatory agency.”

Rothfus touted the Republicans’ “Better Way” plan as a solution to the “erosion” of rights.

“Our Better Way plan seeks to restore the separation of powers in at least a few important ways,” he said. “We propose that Congress actually write laws in clear language that provides clear lines of authority - no gray areas that allow unelected bureaucrats to run amok; we propose new limits on spending so that Congress and the people have the ultimate say over how your tax dollars are being spent; and we want to increase transparency across the board.”