Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) took to the Senate floor today to urge both parties in both chambers of Congress to pass anti-Zika funding for the good of Floridians and the American people. This was Rubio’s 12th Senate floor speech this year urging congressional action to combat the Zika virus.
Earlier today, Rubio and Florida Governor Rick Scott pushed for Zika funding in a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
September 14, 2016
Senator Marco Rubio: “The governor of Florida, was here yesterday and again today to discuss Zika funding. I met with him personally yesterday. We met with the majority leader earlier today to reiterate again the statistics. There are now in the mainland of the United States almost 3,000 cases in combination with U.S. territories, meaning primarily the island of Puerto Rico, there are now close to 16,000 cases. In my home state of Florida alone, we are up to 799 cases. Seventy of those cases are locally transmitted, meaning they were not Zika infections acquired abroad. They were either sexually transmitted or by a mosquito in the state of Florida. Infections involving pregnant women in Florida: 86. That's combined both travel and local transmission.
“It has taken this Congress far too long to act. Now, the good news is, I believe, given conversations that are still ongoing, that we are on the verge of getting something done in the fight against Zika. I would remind everyone that the Senate did act on this issue back in May in a bipartisan way, and I would also take this moment to point out that my colleague, Senator Nelson from Florida, has been great to work with on this and multiple issues, but on this one in particular, and I thank him for his partnership and hard work in this regard. I enjoy our partnership on many issues involving the state of Florida, including a water bill before the Senate, but on this issue of Zika in particular. But it's time for the rest of us to come together in the interest of our people.
“I know that right now all the headlines are about the impact this is having on Florida, but I want you to make no mistake, Zika is a national problem and it requires a federal response, including funding to develop a vaccine that will eradicate this virus. So I do appreciate Governor Scott’s efforts at the state level to combat Zika, but it's long past time that this Congress follow suit.
“This is, by the way, Governor Scott's second visit to Washington to address Zika and I'm not aware of any other governor that's come up here for the same purpose. But I can assure you that if we fail to seize the chance to pass funding, we are going to see more governors and more Americans from every state and territory beating down the doors here in Washington fairly soon. As I said earlier, there are almost 20,000 Americans now that have been infected and I think it would be a tragic and terrible mistake to ignore their plight. We have a chance here to help them, to prevent even more people from getting infected, but to do so we have to act now.
“And I want to point to one of the aspects of this issue that isn't talked about enough. We already understand the risk of microcephaly, what it means for unborn children. We understand the risk it poses to people in general but I want to talk a little bit today about the economic impact of it. Because you can imagine that as Zika outbreaks are being reported around the world, and for the first time ever the CDC is actually designating areas of the continental United States as travel advisory areas that perhaps people should avoid, it begins to have an economic impact.
“So again, this is not just something that's having an impact on our health care system, which is dramatic in and of itself, but it's having an economic impact as well, which is why it's so inexcusable we didn't address this in April. We couldn't get final passage on this in May. I know the Senate did its part. It's gotten tangled up in all this election year politics.
“All I would say to my colleagues is: We fight about so many things around here, we have so many issues we could have a debate over. I mean, there are significant differences between our political parties, and in election years, they become more pronounced. And so let's have debates about those issues. But isn't there, at least when it comes to public health and safety, something that we could say on this issue that we're not going to play politics. Let's put this issue aside and let's not entangle it in all the political stuff that’s going on. Because in the end, this virus does not discriminate. This is an issue that affects anyone and everyone potentially. That’s what I hope is going to happen here. We’ve taken far too long. But can you imagine going back at the end of next week or the end of this month and explaining to people, not just in Florida but in America, that Congress once again couldn't get anything done on this.
“Let us come together once and for all. Let's get this done in the Senate. Then let's work on encouraging our colleagues in the House to do the same so we have at least some good news to tell the American people at the end of this month. Number one, your government didn't shut down. And number two – number two – that Congress has finally provided funds not just to help states and localities deal with Zika, not just to help health care facilities treat people with Zika, and not just to help people prevent Zika, but to continue the research to develop a vaccine. Because once we have a vaccine, then I think this issue becomes very different. Then we have an answer with permanency to it. So that's where I hope we're headed. That's why I encourage my colleagues here to continue to work on this. Let's get this done once and for all. It's the right thing to do for America. It's the right thing to do for our people.”