Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) once again urged President Obama today to spend the $350 million in unspent Zika funding that was redirected earlier this year from previously unspent Ebola response funding. Rubio made his comments during a media availability in Daytona Beach, FL.
“My argument is: at this point, we just need to get something done. Let’s find something that can pass,” said Rubio. “And I don’t care which side gives in. Someone needs to give in quickly, because we need to move forward on the funding sooner rather than later. But we should move on the 350 million. There’s no excuse for not spending the money that’s already there. Why are they holding that money back?”
A transcript of Rubio’s Zika remarks is below.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
August 2, 2016
Daytona Beach, FL
Senator Marco Rubio: “First of all, let me just say about Zika. It’s not just a health care problem; it’s an economic development problem. I can foresee now when people that are planning to come to Florida, to go fishing perhaps, will decide to cancel their trip because they’re worried about mosquitoes and they’re worried about Zika. I think there are two things that people need to understand. There are over $300 million – $350 million – in the control of the federal government right now, and a week ago before this was even diagnosed, I asked the president to fully utilize those funds. President Obama can do that right now, and there’s no excuse for why that money isn’t flowing. I believe Congress needs to pass additional funding on top of the $350 million, and obviously I want Congress to come back and pass that as soon as possible.
“I spoke today by phone to Senator McConnell, the majority leader, and he reiterated to me that the Senate is ready to move. Obviously, we have an issue in the House where they’re only willing to move forward on their version. … At the end of the day, I just want to see the money flowing. We have to get ahead of this problem. It’s already too late. We have 14 people who have been diagnosed and others that I think will be before all is said and done.
“Senator McConnell agrees with me about the $350 million being immediately spent. He also hopes that we can come back quickly and deal with this. He says the House is pretty dug in on their position about the $1.1 billion with the riders that they attached to it. We’re hoping we can work through that, and what we discussed was that I would be trying to contact some of leadership in the House and see if I could help influence them to move further. But at a minimum, what we should do is have the $350 million that’s already there to be spent, and then when Congress gets back whether it’s in late August or early September, move on the rest of it.
“But we already have $350 million. We were never going to be able to spend the $1.1 billion all at once anyways. Let’s spend the 350 [million] that’s already there that the president has access to. There’s no excuse for not making that money fully available now, especially after what we have going on in Wynwood.
“We need to do whatever it takes to get this passed. Right now we have a dug in situation between the House which is basically saying they’ll only pass their version of it and Senate Democrats that are saying they won’t vote for anything that has that in there.
“My argument is: at this point, we just need to get something done. Let’s find something that can pass. And I don’t care which side gives in. Someone needs to give in quickly, because we need to move forward on the funding sooner rather than later. But we should move on the 350 million. There’s no excuse for not spending the money that’s already there. Why are they holding that money back?”