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VIDEO: On Senate Floor, Rubio Urges Passage of Continuing Resolution with Anti-Zika Funding
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) took to the Senate floor again today, and urged Congress to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) containing critical funding to combat the Zika virus. In his 11th floor speech on Zika this year, Rubio detailed the harm Zika has inflicted on tourism in Florida, and called on both parties to end the political games and address the crisis right away.
Yesterday, Rubio welcomed the announcement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that the Senate would move forward this week on a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would fund the government through December 9 and include additional money to fight the Zika virus in Florida.
A full transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below. His full speech can be watched here, and a downloadable broadcast quality version is available for TV stations here.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
September 13, 2016
I’m pleased to report that we finally had some encouraging news yesterday on the Zika funding front, with the announcement by the Senate Majority Leader that additional money to fight the Zika virus would be included in the Continuing Resolution which is the budget document that will hopefully move us forward at least through December, and that hopefully will be moving through the Senate here very soon.
Throughout my time in the Senate, I have regularly opposed these short-term spending bills – because I don’t think funding government on a month to month basis is the smart way to run the government of the most powerful and important nation on Earth. But with Zika becoming a public health emergency the way it has, this is a necessary exception for me to make. And that’s why assuming all else…we’ll obviously reserve to see all the other details of this budget document but assuming it all is as it has been reported and as I am aware of from the conversations that are ongoing…that’s why I’ll be supporting this Continuing Resolution. It’s worth making an exception for something like that when the Zika funding is in it.
At this point, I just really believe that we need to get Zika funding approved and moving. We need to make sure that the fight against Zika doesn’t run out of money before the end of this month. That’s, for me, the most urgent priority.
We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The perfect, I believe, is still the full funding that was originally requested at $1.9 billion, which I’ve supported. The good is what will hopefully be finalized soon and hopefully will pass quickly. But the unacceptable…the unacceptable would be to do nothing and to let the money run out on these ongoing efforts to fund the fight against Zika.
Even the $1.9 billion the administration requested months ago may not ultimately be enough. We don’t know for sure how much more may be needed to win this fight. But the $1.1 billion for Zika that’s being negotiated would be a big step in the right direction and it would mean real resources for my home state of Florida, which in the continental U.S. and the mainland has been disproportionally impacted. Just yesterday there were another six cases I believe of confirmed transmissions that occurred in the state, not travel–related. And of course the suffering that is now ongoing on the island of Puerto Rico in which a significant percentage of the population has now been affected and/or infected by Zika.
I’ve been talking about this issue since January, and it’s been frustrating to see it tied up in Washington political games. And as I have said repeatedly, I believe both parties are to blame for us getting to this moment.
On the one hand, I believe members of my own party have been slow to respond to this and there were these efforts, I believe, to try and cut corners on the funding, which will cost us money in the long term. But on the other hand, you had Democrats inventing excuses, just making it up, in order to oppose it, and to do so for purely political reasons. We have an administration playing chicken with this issue by claiming that money would run out in August, only to discover that they had more money that could be redirected from other accounts.
And now, thanks in part to the lack of action from Congress, by the Administration; we have nearly 19,000 Americans who have been infected, including 800 in Florida and 16,000 on the island of Puerto Rico. We have 86 pregnant women in the state of Florida that have tested positive for the virus, which as we know carries the risk for heartbreaking birth defects.
The Florida Department of Health announced, as I said earlier, it wasn’t six, it was eight new non-travel related cases yesterday, bringing that total to 64. That basically means 8 new cases of people who got Zika somewhere in America, probably in Florida.
And Zika has also had a devastating economic impact on Florida. The Miami Herald reported: “Miami hotel bookings are down. Airfare to South Florida is falling. Business owners in affected areas report steep losses. Polls show many visitors would rather stay away.” And as tourism takes a hit, well, so will the entire economy of the state of Florida, as tourism is one of our cornerstone industries.
And that is why you see all of us from Florida working together across the aisle to get this done. I’ve worked with my colleague Senator Bill Nelson, the senior Senator from Florida, on Zika from the beginning. I’m going to be meeting with our Governor, Governor Rick Scott, later today about the same issue.
The bottom line is, that at the national level, like the state level in Florida, there’s no excuse for this issue to be tied up in politics any longer. My colleagues, Zika is not a game, and we need to pass this funding as soon as possible so our health officials and experts have the resources they need to conduct the vital medical research that will lead us to a vaccine and ultimately help eradicate Zika in Florida, across the United States, on the island of Puerto Rico, and beyond.
So, Yesterday’s announcement is encouraging. We’re closer than we’ve ever been to getting something done. And now I hope will be the time for action.
Hopefully, we’ll have something soon that’s public and that we can get passed right away. And I sincerely hope that Senate Democrats won’t once again make up or find some excuse to oppose this. And I hope that members of our party will work cooperatively on this as well. And I hope ultimately that the House will also do the right thing so we can get this done, and we can move forward on the research necessary for the vaccine, on the money needed to eradicate these mosquitoes, and ultimately on the treatments that people will so desperately need to deal with the issue of Zika once and for all.