Buchanan Rips Senate Refusal to Fund Zika
Sen. Harry Reid Puts Politics Ahead of Public Health
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan today blasted Senate Democrats for refusing to fund efforts to control the Zika virus as the first case of a brain-damaged baby was reported in Florida.
“Senate Democrats are voting against Zika funds in order to protect Obamacare money earmarked for Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands,” Buchanan said. “This is the very definition of partisan lunacy. Senator Harry Reid has put politics ahead of public health.”
Reid called the $1.1 billion House-passed package to fund Zika prevention efforts – including for communities in Florida – a “disgrace.” He said that Senate Democrats had no choice but to oppose the bill, in part because it taps money intended to prop up Obamacare in U.S. territories such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
However, weeks ago Senate Democrats unanimously supported a Zika funding bill that contained the same funding level and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden said at the time the bill “allows us to do the things we need to do in the immediate term.”
The Florida Department of Health today announced the first Zika-related case of microcephaly in a child born in Florida. The mother, a citizen of Haiti, had a travel-related case of Zika and came to Florida to deliver the baby.
“The Senate needs to put aside partisan politics and get the job done,” Buchanan said. “Summer’s here, Zika’s here, and that means people are at risk. It’s beyond frustrating that Washington can’t agree on funding to stop this public health crisis.”
The House of Representatives passed a new Zika funding proposal last week, leaving the Senate as the final obstacle to providing these much-needed resources. The Senate’s failure to pass Zika funding would mean that a joint House-Senate negotiation committee must reconvene and introduce a new compromise bill. Buchanan supported the House funding bill last week.
Buchanan has pushed for rapid and full emergency funding for the Zika response and has hosted multiple public health experts in meetings and public events in Florida and Washington to talk about the virus. He also wrote a letter to House and Senate leadership last month urging the Zika conferees provide the full amount of emergency funding requested by the Obama administration.
The Congressman was the first Republican in the U.S. House to support President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus. 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.
In a recent meeting of the Florida delegation chaired by Buchanan, Frieden called the Zika virus “unprecedented – never before have we seen a mosquito-borne illness linked to a devastating birth defect. It will take years to develop a vaccine.”
Florida leads the country in the number of reported Zika cases. As of Monday there were 223 cases, according to the Florida Department of Health. The CDC reported 820 cases across the country.
Buchanan also cited a chilling new report that warned more than 1 million pregnancies could be at risk from the Zika virus in states along the Gulf Coast.