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VIDEO: Rubio Discusses New Senate Agreement on Anti-Zika Funding

Sep 22, 2016 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) took to the Senate floor today to urge the Senate to finally pass anti-Zika funding. Just hours ago, an agreement was reached on a $1.1 billion package to fund the federal government’s response to the Zika virus. This was Rubio’s 13th Senate floor speech calling for anti-Zika funding this year.
A partial 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
Washington, D.C.
September 22, 2016
First of all, I want to — the news has already been out there today that there is a broader issue about funding the government that remains in play with some issues and there’s a debate back and forth about that and that will continue.  But I want to talk in specific about one of the provisions that’s involved in this, and that’s the funding for Zika, which as my colleagues know I’ve been discussing here for quite some time over the last few months as it has spread. Let me begin by reminding everyone of the state in play in Florida, my home state, and across the country as well. …
Across U.S. territory, there are now close to 20,000 cases of Zika. There are over 3,300 infections in the mainland of the United States, 867 of them are in Florida and 90 of them were transmitted locally, meaning it happened in the state. There are 89 infections in Florida involving pregnant women. There are 85 infections now among U.S. service members, two of them pregnant. … There’s 21 dependents of U.S. service members with Zika, one of them is pregnant. So this is an issue that continues to grow in urgency, and it’s taken far too long for Congress to act. Both parties, as I have said repeatedly, are to blame, but we’re here at this point. 
What I’m more optimistic about is the fact that we have reached a bipartisan agreement to fund the federal government’s response to this virus. It’s a $1.1 billion package. And in it there’s $15 million specifically targeted for states with local transmissions. And so far Florida is the only state that has local transmissions. $15 million. It also includes $60 million specifically for territories like the island of Puerto Rico, which has had the highest number of infected American citizens, and that’s by far. It’s not even close.
So in next week as we come back we are expected  to vote on these anti-Zika resources and it’s going to be part of the larger bill to fund the federal government beyond the 30th of September. I know that some of those other issues have yet to be worked out. There’s going to be some extensive debate about some of the issues remaining, but this provision is an important part of this and has to be part of the final package as we send it over to the House and I guess I begin by laying this out today in the hopes not just that my colleagues will support the funding mechanism for Zika but also to begin to speak a little bit to some of our House colleagues on the other side about how important it is that we get the anti-Zika funding passed so that this money can begin to flow and to help those that are being hurt by the virus. But also so that medical researchers can focus on developing a vaccine without having to worry about their resources drying up.
I think this package that’s been put together in a bipartisan way rightfully prioritizes funding for Americans in Puerto Rico and in Florida. And I’m encouraged that our repeated calls for action on their behalf are beginning to be answered. … It provides the $1 .1 billion — by the way, the Senate has already passed the $1 .1 billion provision I believe back in May. So the Senate has already acted on this once. This is kind of revisiting this issue on our behalf. But is important because we’re going to have to lead the way in how this is structured. …
This is complex, there’s lot of funds available. The good news is that it is being targeted in the right direction. And the good news for Florida is, as the only state so far that’s had a local transmission of Zika, you can see we qualify for the $15 million which I think will be incredibly helpful for Florida. So I would just urge my colleagues, we’ve all come at this from a different perspective. This took some time to put together. There were a lot of other issues in play. A lot of political rhetoric surrounding this. But I think we’ve reached the point now where we at least, when it comes to Zika, can rally around the proposal that’s before us. It is as good as we’re going to get, given the time constraints that we face. And my colleagues, we’ve waited far too long. We cannot leave here on the 30th of September, next week, without moving something forward. And I think this gives us the best chance to get it done. And I would urge my colleagues here to support it as we go into the new week and I would urge the House members to begin to look at this and to really rally around this. We have to take action on this once and for all. This gives us the best chance of success. 
I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to be able to get this done over here. And I say cautiously because I want people at home to understand that this provision of Zika is part of a bigger, much bigger, product that involves funding the federal government. And there are all sorts of over other issues that are still be debated on. As you heard the Minority Leader and others have spoken today already, I read in the press, and they are not big fans of the proposal that’s on the table. So there is broader issues at play that could potentially derail Zika, having nothing to do with Zika funding. There are other issues being debated that could derail Zika that have nothing to do with Zika. It involves some of these other issues associated with the funding of the government. But this is important enough to us to move forward on. I don’t think anyone wants to see a government shutdown, of course, but beyond it, I think we’ve got to get moving on this funding. We’ve heard loud and clear: this has taken far too long. And let me tell you if this money doesn’t start flowing – because I have been really hard on the Administration about spending the money that’s already available to them. But now I can tell you that that money is slowly dwindling. And here’s the fact: if we don’t get something done here in the next couple weeks, in the next few days, the research on the vaccines and other things is going to stop or come to a grind. And that means it’s going  longer to develop a vaccine.
You want to save money on Zika? You want to save money on this issue once and for all? Develop a vaccine. Develop a vaccine. That’s what needs to happen. That can’t happen if the funding is being threatened or if the funding is not something they can count on to move forward on. And also these local governments and municipalities in the state of Florida have already expended significant amounts of money to deal with this issue, including the mosquito control efforts. So that’s important. These cases are going to happen whether we fund it or not. And that’s why I wanted us to do this in April, and in May, and in June, and in July. It took too long. But here’s where we are now. Better late than never.  Let’s get this done as soon as possible so that we can give assurances to our people back home that the federal government has stepped up and their elected representatives have done their jobs to deal with this issue once and for all.