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Rubio: To Get A Serious Zika Bill On President’s Desk, The American People Need To Speak Out

May 24, 2016 | Comunicados de Prensa

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today delivered a floor speech urging his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to take more action in combating the Zika virus.

“I really hope and I want to be wrong about this, but $622 million, I fear, is simply not going to be enough to deal with this problem if it heads in the direction that the doctors and the experts are telling us it’s headed,” Rubio said. “Within a month, we are likely to have a very different situation on our hands with regards to Zika.

“Not only have we delayed action for far too long already, but we’re also not expecting any action this week before Congress goes into recess next week. In other words, it is likely Congress will let at least another two weeks go by on this issue without any action,” Rubio continued. “So I urge the American people to make next week a tough one on those who are home from Congress, who have refused to take meaningful action to confront Zika because they need to hear from you. And to any members of Congress who don’t receive pressure at home next week, you should know that you soon enough will.

“Waiting to act until we have a panic on our hands is not leadership,” Rubio added. “So I encourage the House to act on the scale the American people need it to act. And I urge Congress to send a bill to the president as soon as possible regarding this matter.”

A transcript of Rubio’s full remarks is available below. A video is available here, and a broadcast quality video is available for download here.

EL SENADOR MARCO RUBIO
Senate Floor Speech
May 24, 2016
https://youtu.be/8gsSWtsAuaU

Senator Marco Rubio: “A poll last month found that 4 in 10 Americans had heard little to nothing about the Zika virus. Many others were unaware that it was a risk to the U.S.  The likely reason for this is that the virus isn’t yet being transmitted locally here in the United States.

“But for all of us in Congress, this is not excuse for inaction. Our jobs are to get ahead of threats, to anticipate them, not just respond to them. And we have all the information that we need to know that the Zika virus is bad and it is potentially about to get worse.

“In fact, it won’t be long, I believe, before virtually all of our people have heard of this virus, and are concerned about it, and want to know why their leaders aren’t doing more to fight it.

“They all want to know what we’re doing now, and sadly, they answer is: ‘Not enough.’

“Even though the problem has been steadily getting worse, the Congress has refused to treat it with the urgency that I believe it deserves.

“There was a time when Zika was considered a foreign virus, but that’s no longer the case. As of today, there are now 544 cases in the mainland U.S., with more being confirmed almost daily. All of those so far are travel related, but there are also 832 cases locally transmitted in American territories, mostly Puerto Rico.

“If the problem is there, it won’t be long before it’s here on the mainland.

“Just this week, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is the government’s top authority on these issues, warned that mosquitoes carrying Zika will begin infecting Americans in the next ‘month or so.’

“Once those mosquitos are here, they’re going to reproduce. As soon as we have one case of Zika transmitted locally by a mosquito, there will be others that will follow shortly thereafter.

“Just a few days ago, the Centers for Disease Control announced that ‎157 pregnant women in the U.S. and 122 in U.S. territories have shown signs of infection from the Zika virus.

“This should be another wake-up call for the Congress. ‎Knowing that there are at least 279 pregnant women in the United States with likely Zika virus infections means we also have at least, potentially 279 unborn children at risk of microcephaly, and we should be doing all we can to save these human beings.

“So we have a limited amount of time to brace ourselves and get a head start on confronting this threat.

“Keep in mind, there is not yet a vaccine yet for Zika. There is no cure for the conditions and for the birth defects that it causes.

“So for all of us as Americans, but especially for all of us as elected leaders, it is long past due to take this virus seriously. Because the virus is not just serious; this virus is deadly serious.

“So far I must say that the Congress is failing this test.

“Now I am proud of the work done here in the Senate to pass a funding measure. It may not have been for as much as we may ultimately need, but at least at $1.1 billion, a significant amount of money is going to go towards fighting this threat.

“Today, in the House the story is different.

“Last week, the House passed a $622 million package. This is about a third of what was originally requested. The funds were secured by redirecting money approved to respond to the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

“I really hope and I want to be wrong about this, but $622 million, I fear, is simply not going to be enough to deal with this problem if it heads in the direction that the doctors and the experts are telling us it’s headed.

“So I come here on the floor of the Senate today to urge our colleagues in the House and its leadership to realize that this threat is knocking on our door, that the opportunity to get out ahead of this problem is quickly slipping away.

“Within a month, we are likely to have a very different situation on our hands with regards to Zika.

“Not only have we delayed action for far too long already, but we’re also not expecting any action this week before Congress goes into recess next week. In other words, it is likely Congress will let at least another two weeks go by on this issue without any action.

“So I urge the American people to make next week a tough one on those who are home from Congress, who have refused to take meaningful action to confront Zika because they need to hear from you. And to any members of Congress who don’t receive pressure at home next week, you should know that you soon enough will.

“While only a portion of our constituents are currently concerned about Zika, that will change the moment the first case of locally transmitted Zika by a mosquito is confirmed in the mainland United States.

“And then we are going to have to answer to those who want to know why we didn’t act. And quite frankly, we’re not going to have a satisfying answer.

“Waiting to act until we have a panic on our hands is not leadership.

“So I encourage the House to act on the scale the American people need it to act. And I urge Congress to send a bill to the president as soon as possible regarding this matter.

“I hope we will properly fund this fight so we can win it.”