Insect-transmitted illnesses like Lyme disease infect hundreds of thousands every year — but one New Jersey Republican has spent decades trying to fight back. Now, Rep. Chris Smith is seeing his dreams become reality.
On Dec. 20, President Donald Trump signed into law a government spending bill that, among many other things, authorized $150 million in federal funds “to monitor, treat, and prevent insect-transmitted illnesses, including Lyme disease, Zika, dengue fever, [and] West Nile virus,” according to the Washington Examiner.
The $1.4 trillion spending bill also included provisions allocating more than $1 million to border security measures, raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 nationwide, and extending “a long-standing freeze on lawmakers’ pay,” according to the Associated Press.
Making it personal
The issue of Lyme disease has always been near and dear to Rep. Smith’s heart; the New Jersey Republican comes from a state with one of the nation’s highest numbers of Lyme disease cases per capita, according to the Examiner.
But the cause really started to hit close to home for Smith six years ago, when his daughter was diagnosed with the disease.
“This marks a major victory for hundreds of thousands, especially and including children, who suffer from this horrific disease,” Smith declared from the House floor ahead of a vote on the bill.
House Republicans got an opportunity to speak with the president about his impeachment recently, and during the meeting, Smith was also able to raise his concerns about insect-carried illnesses. The congressman was encouraged by the president’s response.
“He was very engaged, and it’s more than just words,” Smith said after the meeting, according to the Examiner. “The administration is doing it. It’s something Trump is personally involved with, personally concerned about.”
A decades-long fight
Known as the Kay Hagan Tick Act, this portion of the recently passed spending package was named for North Carolina Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan, who died earlier this year of the Powassan virus, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Like Lyme disease, Powassan is transmitted by ticks.
Hagan was 66.
“We were always blocked by the Energy and Commerce Committee, but we just kept working at it, and we’re at the point where the president is signing,” Smith said on the House floor earlier this month, according to the Examiner. “I can’t thank the administration enough. We’ve been trying since 1992.”