After Senate Democrats Twice Block Legislation, Diaz-Balart and Clawson Urge Senate Leadership to Take Immediate Action on House-Passed Zika Bills
MIAMI – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) released the following statement, after he and Congressman Curt Clawson (FL-19) wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), urging Senate leadership to take immediate action on two pieces of legislation that would provide additional funding to help combat, prevent, and treat the Zika virus. These two bills were passed in the House, and legislation to provide funding was twice blocked by Senate Democrats.
"I urge Senate leadership to take action on the two bills the House has passed that would provide additional and immediate funding to combat Zika. This week, Florida has confirmed over a dozen locally transmitted cases, the first of their kind in the continental United States. It is irresponsible of Senate Democrats to ignore the threat of Zika that has already reached our shores. After blocking House approved legislation twice, it is time to end political grandstanding. Senate Democrats have a duty to vote for immediate Zika funding, and to get these urgently needed funds to the affected regions."
The text of the letter can be found below:
August 5, 2016
The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Senate Minority Leader
S-230, The Capitol S-221, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Leaders McConnell and Reid,
The threat of Zika to our national way of life can no longer accommodate the calendar of the United States Senate. With the State of Florida’s recent announcement that 15 individuals have contracted the dangerous Zika virus through local transmission, Florida now has become the first state in the nation to report non-travel related cases of the virus. On Monday, August 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a travel warning for Wynwood, a neighborhood located in Miami, FL where most of these cases have been identified.
Zika virus is a dangerous disease linked to birth defects, certain neurological disorders, and Guillain-Barré syndrome. The disease is most commonly transmitted through a bite from the Aedes species of mosquito, but can also be spread through sexual transmission. Prior to Florida’s announcement, the CDC had reported 4,729 locally acquired cases in U.S. territories, with the majority being recorded in Puerto Rico.
Despite the acknowledged threat to the United States, the House and Senate have thus far been unable to agree on meaningful prevention, containment, and treatment measures. Further disagreement and inaction is unacceptable, and we implore the Senate to explore all options to make urgently-needed funding available immediately.
The House has referred multiple Zika-related measures to the Senate for final passage. In May, the House passed H.R. 5243, the Zika Response Appropriations Act. Passage of this bill is the quickest way for the Senate to get a clean bill to the President that responds to the threat posed by Zika. It would appropriate over $600 million in funding to combat the spread of the virus through the remainder of this fiscal year, allowing Congress additional time to pass long-term, comprehensive legislation during the appropriations negotiations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. Additionally, the Senate could agree to the conference report to H.R. 2577, which includes language that would direct $1.1 billion through FY2017 to fight the spread of Zika.
Regardless of which bill receives final passage, it is unacceptable to wait until after the August recess to act. We again urge the Senate to aggressively pursue any options that would start the flow of needed resources to the frontline to secure the nation from this biological threat.
Curt Clawson Mario Diaz-Balart
Member of Congress Member of Congress