ICYMI: Senator Carper Calls on Congress to Pass Emergency Funding to Combat Zika Virus

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to support an amendment that would fully fund President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to combat the growing threat posed by the Zika virus. Carper noted that, just like the U.S. response to Ebola, our response to Zika must be an all-hand-on-deck effort and he urged the Senate to do its part in order to stop the spread of this virus.

His full speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:

“Mr. President, I rise today in support of emergency supplemental funding for federal efforts to combat the impending threat of the Zika virus. Reports of the spread of this virus are concerning, not just for public health officials, but for many Americans who are reading about it in the paper and seeing coverage on the news. Families are reconsidering vacations they had planned, especially to more tropical locations. And as we approach mosquito season, people are understandably worried about how this outbreak will affect them and their families. We need to continue working to fully understand and combat the health risks posed by Zika. Just like with our response to Ebola, our response to Zika must be an all-hands-on-deck effort.

“In February, President Obama submitted a $1.9 billion emergency supplemental funding request to Congress to bolster programs and activities which would curb the spread of this virus. Given the real threat posed by Zika, I support the funding level requested by the President, and I intend to vote for the amendment offered by my colleague from Florida, which would fully fund this request. With that being said, I understand that a bipartisan agreement on funding has been reached between Senator Blunt and Senator Murray, which would provide $1.1 billion towards Zika efforts. I appreciate their hard work in negotiating this language, and will support their amendment as well, so that our nation’s public health officials can take all necessary actions to combat the spread of this virus.

“The Zika virus has spread explosively throughout Central and South America. In fact, it has already reached Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories and is expected to spread further north as the weather warms. Researchers have learned much about this virus in just the last few months and their findings are deeply troubling. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that there is now enough scientific evidence to confirm what many have long speculated–the Zika virus is a direct cause of severe birth defects. Further complicating matters, it now appears that the mosquito primarily responsible for transmitting the virus has a wider presence in the United States than initially thought. As the map beside me illustrates, it is now believed that these mosquitoes reside across much of the country. They even reside as far north as New York and parts of Minnesota. As this next map shows, major cities across the east coast, including right here in DC, could be hit hard by the Zika virus. 

“With mosquito season upon us, and with more than 500 travel-related cases already diagnosed within the continental United States, we must be prepared for the possibility of outbreaks in some parts of the country. That is why I was glad to see President Obama and his Administration take an early and proactive role in addressing Zika. Some of the actions already undertaken by federal agencies include assisting state and local governments in mosquito control efforts and ensuring that local health officials have equipment to test people for the disease. We also know that promising advances are being made in medical countermeasures and vaccine development. To date, these efforts have required the transfer of resources from other priorities, including Dengue and Ebola.

“Last month, the Obama Administration announced it would redirect on an interim basis almost $600 million from other public health accounts to pay for Zika-related activities. I believe the President made the right call in light of the circumstances and the threat posed by the Zika virus. Now, however, it is time for Congress to do its part. It is my hope that we can come together and pass the amendment offered by our colleague Senator Nelson. However, if we are unable to fully fund the President’s request, I believe the funding provided by the Blunt-Murray Amendment will go a long way towards supporting the many efforts currently being undertaken by the Administration to combat Zika. I urge my colleagues to join me in providing the funding needed to stop the spread of the Zika virus.”