Bennet: Congress Needs to Stop Playing Politics with Zika Funding

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement on the Senate's vote on a bill that provides funding for Zika research while cutting funding from other public health priorities, including protecting families from getting the Zika virus in the first place. The bill failed to advance in the Senate.

"It's ridiculous that after a seven-week recess, the Senate has returned to Washington to vote on an unserious bill that has already failed to move forward twice before. This partisan bill makes completely unnecessary cuts to important public health priorities. Congress needs to stop playing politics with the health of the millions of families living in areas that are affected by mosquitoes carrying the virus. We need to pass the bipartisan Senate bill as soon as possible."

The Administration recently warned Congress that funding to help fight the Zika virus could dry up by the end of the month. It also said it would shift $81 million from cancer research to the Zika virus to help continue research until Congress is able to approve additional funding.

In February, the Administration requested $1.9 billion for researchers to fight Zika. In May, Bennet joined the Senate, which overwhelmingly voted to advance a bipartisan bill to provide $1.1 billion in emergency funding to combat and prevent the spread of the Zika virus. Subsequently, the House passed an inadequate and irresponsible bill that included only $622 million, one third of the Administration's request. Bennet has urged both chambers to work across the aisle to finalize a serious funding package, including calling on Congressional leaders to reconvene both chambers of Congress to pass a clean funding bill to fight Zika.

Ahead of the Senate's vote in May, he pressed Congressional leaders to consider and pass emergency funding. In February, he joined 45 senators in urging the Administration to coordinate an interagency response plan to address the spread of the Zika virus both at home and abroad. Bennet and a group of senators introduced a bill to fund the request and called on the Senate Appropriations Committee to quickly approve the funding. In April, he joined his Senate colleagues in urging Senate leaders to immediately pass the emergency supplemental funding request to help combat the Zika outbreak.

Earlier this year, Bennet visited the CDC's Division for Vector-Borne Diseases in Fort Collins, where he toured the facility and received a briefing from researchers about their work to combat the Zika virus. In 2010, Bennet prevented funding cuts proposed by the Administration that would have virtually eliminated the vector-borne diseases program that is largely run out of the Fort Collins facility.