As hopes dim for passage of a Zika funding bill, Congressman Vern Buchanan warned today the issue will become the new face of Washington dysfunction if Congress adjourns for the summer without taking action.
“If Washington can’t function when the lives of infants are at stake, then when can it?” the Congressman asked as Congress prepares to adjourn tomorrow for a seven-week recess. “This is a disgraceful display of dysfunction by both parties as well as the president at a time when the lives of so many people are at stake.”
“We have reached the 11th hour as a failure to authorize the resources necessary to fight Zika puts Americans at risk at the peak of mosquito season,” Buchanan said. “The time for partisan political games has long past.”
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Sunday said states and local governments need federal help to pay for mosquito control efforts, and that unless more funding is approved, further vaccine development will be delayed, according to USA Today.
Florida leads the country in the number of reported Zika cases. As of Tuesday there were 282 cases, according to the Florida Department of Health. The CDC reported there are 1,133 travel-related cases across the U.S.
“Communities across the United States and our nation’s top disease fighters needed these federal resources yesterday,” Buchanan said. “But unfortunately, because of Washington dysfunction, it is looking like more Americans will now remain vulnerable to Zika.”
Earlier this month, 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 in the Senate before Congress leaves for recess. “Congressional leaders as well as the president should have been working together to solve this impasse,” Buchanan said.
Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid said the $1.1 billion House-passed conference report to fund Zika prevention efforts “isn’t going anyplace.” Reid warned on Monday that Senate Democrats will once again block the bill if it comes up for a vote this week.
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.”
“Lives are at stake here,” Buchanan said. “I’ve been sounding the alarm on Zika’s threat for five months now. It’s beyond shameful that Washington can’t work together to stop future devastation caused by this deadly virus.”
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.