Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Calls for Immediate Appointment of Conference Committee to Approve Zika Funding

May 24, 2016
Press Release
Tells Congressional Leaders to Stop Ignoring Nation’s Health Experts

“Everything We See is Bad” Says Top Disease Fighter Anthony Fauci 

WASHINGTON – In a letter sent today to congressional leaders, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan called for Washington politicians to stop ignoring the warnings of America’s top health experts on the need for swift action to confront the Zika virus. Buchanan urged leaders to appoint a conference committee immediately to approve funding.

Buchanan said our nation’s foremost infectious disease fighters at the Centers for Disease Control have made clear how we should respond to the threat. Buchanan told House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Congress should listen to the CDC instead of delaying action and refusing to fund precautionary measures. Currently, the House and Senate have approved different funding levels.

“The politicians in Washington should listen to the experts who spend their entire lives fighting outbreaks like this,” Buchanan said in his letter, which was also sent to the top Democrats in the House and Senate. “Every second counts if we want to protect the public from the devastating impact of this disease.”

Buchanan noted that Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “Everything we see is bad. Every week. Every month it tends to surprise us. There was no reason to think that it would be this bad.”

The World Health Organization has estimated that the virus will reach most of the hemisphere and infect up to 4 million people by year's end.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the Center for Disease Control’s principal deputy director, said, “Everything we know about this virus seems to be scarier than we initially thought.”

Buchanan’s call for leaders to move swiftly comes several days after Fauci said mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are expected to enter the U.S. mainland and begin infecting Americans within the next “month or so.”

The Department of Defense is also taking measures to combat the virus on U.S. military installations and protect troops and their families. According to a Pentagon memo written in March, the mosquito species capable of carrying the Zika virus is likely found on 190 military installations in 27 states and three territories, as reported by Stars and Stripes.


Florida had 152 reported cases of the Zika virus as of Friday, according to the Florida Department of Health. Across the U.S. there are 544 travel-related cases of Zika, according to the CDC.

Buchanan was the first Republican in the U.S. House to support the Obama administration’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the virus. The CDC has told Buchanan the money is essential to protect people in Florida and elsewhere as the summer months approach and mosquitoes flourish.

The CDC has declared that its emergency operations center has been put on a “Level 1” status – its highest level of activation – as a result of the Zika outbreak. The CDC has only put its operations center at Level 1 three times in the past: during the Ebola outbreak in 2014; during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009; and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

 

Text of letter:

 

May 24, 2016

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate

The Honorable Harry Reid
Minority Leader
United States Senate

Dear Speaker Ryan, Minority Leader Pelosi, Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid: 

With funding levels still undecided in the fight against the Zika virus, it is imperative that Congress heed the warnings of our nation’s top health experts and move swiftly and forcibly stop the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. 

I urge you to quickly reconcile the differences between the approaches taken by both chambers and provide the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the full amount of funding it needs to fight this disease. Every day we delay in getting a bill signed into law puts more Americans at risk. It’s crucial that you appoint a conference committee immediately to tackle this issue.

The politicians in Washington should listen to the experts who spend their entire lives fighting outbreaks like this. Every second counts if we want to protect the public from the devastating impact of this disease.

CDC Director Tom Frieden has said that these funds are urgently needed for the agency to expand its capacity to test for Zika, create mosquito control strategies and accelerate the development of a vaccine. These are common-sense steps that, if taken quickly, can stop this disease from spreading further.  

The cost of delay is unacceptably high. We are seeing the effect of this disease in Florida, where mosquito season has already begun. Currently, Florida has more than a quarter of all U.S. Zika cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are expected to enter the U.S. mainland and begin infecting Americans within the next “month or so.”

Earlier this year, medical experts at the CDC called for nearly $1.9 billion to fight the spread of Zika. We have already provided $589 million by reallocating unused funds from the Ebola fight. I urge you to fully fund the remainder of the CDC’s request and do so quickly. The lives of thousands of infants are at risk. We must act swiftly to prevent a public health catastrophe.

 

Sincerely,