Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

What Are You Waiting For?

Jul 7, 2016
Press Release
Buchanan to Senate: Pass Zika Funding NOW!

11 New Fla. Cases Wednesday Most Ever in a Single Day

WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan today warned the U.S. Senate that continuing to stall a vote to combat the Zika virus jeopardizes public health.

Last week, Senate Democrats voted to block a must-pass Zika funding bill previously approved by the U.S. House. The bill is expected to be reconsidered by the Senate within the next two weeks, but a vote has not been scheduled.

“It’s disgraceful that Zika funds have been stonewalled again by dysfunctional Washington politics,” Buchanan said. “The Senate Democrats have yet another opportunity to show they are serious about getting much-needed resources to our communities before more Americans are infected. Mosquitoes are out in full force during the summer so we need that funding now more than ever.”

Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid has 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 CDC Director Tom Frieden said at the time the bill “allows us to do the things we need to do in the immediate term."

Florida health officials recently confirmed eleven new Zika cases on Wednesday, the largest amount ever announced in the U.S. on a single day, according to press reports.

A recent medical study also suggested that microcephaly screening is not enough to detect all Zika-related birth defects in newborns and that as a result there may be an underreporting of Zika cases.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that we haven’t sufficiently funded the Zika fight yet,” Buchanan said. “With each day that the Senate delays due to partisan politics, more pregnant mothers are put at risk.”

The House of Representatives passed a new Zika funding proposal two weeks ago, 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.

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 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 full funding 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.

Florida leads the country in the number of reported Zika cases. As of Wednesday there were 263 cases, according to the Florida Department of Health. The CDC reported that the U.S. total is nearing 1,000.