With Congress recessed for seven weeks, Congressman Vern Buchanan today said the failure to fund efforts to confront the deadly Zika virus has become the new face of Washington dysfunction.
“Washington’s failure to protect women and children from the devastating effects of the Zika virus is a national disgrace,” Buchanan said. “The health of thousands of lives are now at stake because Congress and the president could not overcome their political differences.”
Florida leads the country in the number of reported Zika cases. As of Thursday there were 293 cases, according to the Florida Department of Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there are 1,306 travel-related cases across the U.S.
“Congress has failed its primal duty to protect American lives,” Buchanan said. “Inevitably, more vulnerable pregnant mothers and newborns are now at risk because of partisan politics.”
Earlier this month, Senate Democrats voted to block a must-pass Zika funding bill previously approved by the U.S. House. The Senate brought up the bill again this week in a last ditch effort before Congress went home, however the funding was again blocked. As a result, no congressional action will be taken on the Zika emergency funding until after Sept. 5.
“Congressional leaders as well as the president should have been working together to solve this impasse,” Buchanan said.
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.