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VIDEO: On Senate Floor, Rubio Implores Congress to Take Action on Zika
Washington, D.C. – As the Senate reconvened today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) implored Congress to take immediate action and fund the fight against the Zika virus:
A full transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below. His speech can be watched here and a downloadable broadcast quality version is available here for TV stations.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
September 6, 2016
“Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the spread of the Zika virus. As many of my colleagues know, I have been calling for funding to confront this crisis to be included in the Continuing Resolution that Congress is hopefully going to pass in the coming weeks.
“But first, in light of tonight’s vote, I want to take a step back and look at how we have gotten to this point.
“I want us to think about how long we’ve known about this crisis. I want us to think about how many warning signs had to be ignored for us to still be having this debate.
“And I want all the American people who are concerned about and impacted by the virus to know the truth about our deliberations up to this point.
“The truth is that every senator has known about the Zika virus since, at the least, January. We all knew then it was a threat.
“The World Health Organization warned in January that Zika would spread throughout most of the Americas by the end of this year.
“In February, as the number of travel-related cases in the United States grew, President Obama made an emergency spending request of $1.9 billion.
“I supported that request. The vast majority of Congress, for political reasons, did not. And so the virus continued to spread.
“Since then, I’ve come here to the Senate floor to urge my colleagues to take action on Zika on at least eight separate occasions.
“I’ve written letters, I’ve written laws, I’ve supported every single Zika proposal that has come before the Senate, regardless of which party wrote it. Tonight will mark the 12th time, the 12th time that I have voted to move forward on funding to take on Zika.
“But tonight, for the third time, the minority party, the Democrats in the Senate have blocked more funding to fight this virus. And I want to be frank, at times my own party has not taken the issue seriously enough either.
“In the eight times that I’ve come to the Senate floor to deliver speeches about this issue, I have called out both parties. And I repeatedly warned it was only a matter of time before we had a mosquito transmission in the mainland of the United States.
“Tragically that time has now come – and with it, an increase in infections.
“When we last voted on this issue in July, there were approximately 1,300 cases of Zika in the continental United States and 2,900 cases in U.S. territories.
“Since that time in July, these numbers have more than doubled, to over 2,700 cases of Zika in the continental United States and over 14,000 cases in U.S. territories, particularly Puerto Rico.
“That includes 625 pregnant women, whose babies are now at risk of complications, including very serious ones like microcephaly.
“These are not statistics, these are real people.
“As the infection rate continues to snowball, our health officials and experts desperately need additional resources to combat this crisis.
“I continue to support supplemental legislation to fund the fight against Zika, but we simply cannot afford to wait any longer.
“And that’s why I have requested that any legislation to fund the federal government beyond the 30th of September include additional resources to combat and hopefully, through a vaccine, eradicate the Zika virus.
“This is, for Congress, our moment of truth on this incredibly dangerous issue.
“We are going to continue to see more explosive growth in infections if people keep conspiring, for political reasons in an election year, to do nothing.
“My colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers, in the House and in the Senate, now face a choice: are the political points you hope to gain from posturing on this funding really more valuable than saving the lives, and protecting pregnant women and preventing unborn children from being afflicted by this disease?
“And ask yourself this: How will history remember this moment 20 years from now if – God forbid – there are hundreds or even thousands of children who were born with microcephaly while we stood here, playing politics, and did nothing?
“This has the potential to tarnish the legacy of our generation of national leaders – and, far worse, to cause grave health challenges for an untold number of Americans.
“My colleagues, for the life of me, I cannot understand why any senator with any chance to do something about this would stand in the way any longer.
“My message to both parties and both chambers for this month is simple and straightforward: Zika is not a game. And if you think it is, then you should take your game somewhere else. This issue is about human beings, not political chess pieces, and we have a duty to solve it.
“It won’t stop until Congress does what is necessary to respond to this public health crisis. Enough waiting. Enough games. Congress needs to act and it needs to act now.
“With that Mr. President, I yield the floor.”