Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan & Fla. Gov Talk Zika

May 11, 2016
Press Release
Senate Reaches Compromise on Funding

112 Reported Cases of Zika in Florida 

WASHINGTON – As the number of Zika cases continues to grow in Florida, Congressman Vern Buchanan and Florida Gov. Rick Scott met today in Buchanan’s Washington, DC office to discuss the importance of swift congressional action to combat the deadly virus.

The governor and Buchanan agreed that Washington needs to stop dragging its feet and act to protect the public against this deadly disease. “I think we are on the same page when it comes to the urgent need to address this health threat,” Buchanan said. “The longer we wait, the more people are at risk, and Florida is ground zero.”

The meeting comes shortly after Senate leaders announced a bipartisan compromise of $1.1 billion in funding to fight Zika. U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., are prepared to offer a Zika funding amendment to an appropriations bill the Senate is considering as early as this week, according to press reports.

“It’s clear the Zika virus continues to be a growing public health threat to all Americans and I’m thankful that Governor Scott is also urging Congress to quit dragging its feet and act immediately to eradicate the deadly disease,” Buchanan said. “All members of Congress should take this virus seriously and put aside partisanship – time is not on our side as the summer months draw near.”

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 mosquito-borne virus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has told Buchanan the money is essential to protect people in Florida and elsewhere as the summer months approach.

Florida has 112 reported cases of the Zika virus as of Wednesday, according to the Florida Department of Health. Across the U.S. there are 472 travel-related cases of Zika, according to the CDC.

The congressman announced his support for emergency funding more than a week ago based on troubling new developments, including the first fatality on U.S. soil and new research revealing that Zika eats away at the fetal brain and destroys the ability to think. Researchers also say they have learned that up to 29 percent (not 1 percent as originally believed) of pregnant women infected with Zika showed fetal abnormalities. New evidence also shows that the disease can be sexually transmitted in addition to being carried by mosquitoes.

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.

Buchanan was one of the first in Congress to back using emergency federal funding to fight the virus.

In February, Buchanan co-sponsored the Zika Response and Safety Act (H.R. 4446), which would have allowed government agencies to use Ebola funding previously appropriated by Congress to prevent further outbreaks of the Zika virus. Last month, the Obama administration ultimately decided to tap existing, unused Ebola funds to respond to the outbreak as outlined in the legislation.

The Obama administration has asked Congress to approve about $1.9 billion in new federal spending to combat Zika. The emergency funding will expand education, prevention, and mosquito control programs, improve diagnostics and testing, speed the development of a vaccine and boost research into the complications of contracting the virus.