Bennet: Congress Needs to Get Serious about Zika Funding and Pass a Bill to Fight the Disease

Partisan Proposal Mired with Poison Pills and Cuts to Other Public Health Priorities Blocked by Senate

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is continuing his call for Congress to pass a serious bill to combat the Zika virus. Bennet is calling for action following the Senate's rejection of a partisan proposal mired with poison pills that would pay for Zika virus research with cuts to other public health priorities. Neither body of Congress has scheduled votes on a serious proposal to fund efforts to develop a vaccine and fight the spread of the virus.

Nearly forty public health groups, including March of Dimes and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have requested that the Zika conference report be withdrawn and the conference committee reconvene to produce responsible, bipartisan legislation.

"Zika is a public health emergency, and it is unconscionable that Congress hasn't taken it seriously," Bennet said. "Many Americans, including Colorado families, live in or are traveling to areas where Zika-infected mosquitoes are or will be prevalent. Moms in the United States have had miscarriages and babies here have been born with microcephaly due to Zika - and hundreds more Americans have contracted the virus. Yet Congress is playing politics.

"We've been calling for action since February, and the longer Congress waits, the greater the threat is to Americans. Congress should cancel its extended seven-week recess unless it passes a serious bill to give our researchers the means to develop a vaccine and fight the spread of the disease," Bennet added.

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.

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.