Senator Carper Urges Colleagues: Don’t Play Politics with Critical Zika Funds

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the release of the Zika conference report. Last month, Carper urged his colleagues to support efforts by the Obama Administration to proactively respond to the growing threat of the Zika virus by approving the full $1.9 billion in funding requested in order to stay ahead of a virus that the World Health Organization has designated a Public Health Emergency of International Concern—only the fourth time it has used this designation.  

Reports of the Zika virus are understandably troubling, especially for those planning to start a family. Now, with the warmer, summer weather here, we have an obligation to quickly address the impending threat of this virus in a responsible way. While I was disappointed that we did not fully fund the President’s Zika request for $1.9 billion, the Senate took an important step forward a few weeks ago when it approved $1.1 billion in emergency funds that would allow researchers and agencies to work quickly to curb the spread of this virus. Unfortunately, the Zika conference report moves us backward.

“We certainly cannot combat this public health emergency by creating another, which we’d be doing by pilfering the Affordable Care Act, which is expanding access to high-quality health care to millions of Americans. It would be colossally imprudent to rescind such critically-needed health care funding for Puerto Rico and the other territories at a time when they can least afford it. And it’s downright irresponsible to take resources away from our ongoing efforts to fight Ebola when additional funds are needed to address this latest threat.

“Congress, the administration, and state and local governments have a responsibility to the American people to work together to fully combat the health risks posed by Zika. Now is not the time to play politics with this critical funding. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue working quickly towards a responsible, bipartisan solution that combats the Zika virus without creating other health and funding crises we’ll be forced to solve down the road.”