Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) today unveiled the first bipartisan agreement to provide the full $1.9 billion the Administration says it needs to curb the spread of the Zika virus. The Senators introduced legislation which they plan to attach as an amendment to a military spending bill expected to come before the full Senate as early as next week.
The move comes less than a day after Senate appropriators announced they had reached a bipartisan deal of their own that would provide $1.1 billion to fight the virus, which both Florida lawmakers say is simply not enough.
“I've said repeatedly that Congress should not allow politics to delay action on Zika, and I'm hopeful we'll begin to see some meaningful action on this public health emergency very soon,” Rubio said. “There's no reason every proposal to address Zika cannot be bipartisan and earn broad support, and I'm hopeful we can reach a final outcome that fully addresses the problem. As I said yesterday, no one wants the Zika issue to become a full-blown crisis that leaves us scrambling to respond. Let's deal with this now and protect our people, including the American citizens in Puerto Rico who have been most impacted so far. The strain on Puerto Rico's health system from Zika must be addressed, as this proposal does."
"The administration has been clear from the start: it's going to take $1.9 billion to stop the spread of this virus, not $1.1 [billion]," Nelson said.
Immediately after the $1.1 billion deal was announced, Nelson and Rubio decided to offer a competing amendment to fund the president's full request.
It will now be up to Senate leadership to decide whether to bring either or both proposals up for a vote when the Senate begins consideration of the military spending bill next week.
Just yesterday, the Florida Department of Health reported three new cases of Zika virus in Florida, bringing the state’s total to 112 – the most of any U.S. state. Of the three new cases in Florida, two were in Volusia County and one was in Orange County.
The text of the Nelson-Rubio amendment is available here.