Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this evening in opposition to an inadequate bill offered by House Republicans to address the Zika crisis, which provides less than a third of the funding requested by President Obama. Below is a transcript of his remarks:
“If I get sick, I hope it doesn't take 90 days for the emergency responders to come to my aid. February 22 is when the Administration said we needed this money. Almost 90 days later, we're talking about one third of what they said was necessary.
“Mr. Speaker, our nation faces a very real and present danger from Zika, our people face that crisis. Already more than 1,200 Americans, including more than 110 pregnant women have confirmed cases of Zika virus. Would that have been the case if we'd acted on February 22? I do not know. But I certainly wouldn't want to rely on this Congress to enact in a timely fashion anything.
“We know that there is a link between Zika virus and severe birth defects, including microcephaly, which can be life-threatening and for which there is no cure. We saw a tragic picture of a child [on the House Floor].
“Puerto Rico, with its 3.5 million American citizens, has been especially hard hit and needs help from the federal government to prevent and contain the spread of the virus and ensure access to health services for those affected, particularly pregnant women and children. Last week, Puerto Rican health officials reported the island's first confirmed case of Zika-related microcephaly.
“This is a public health crisis and I guarantee you if it had been a terrorist who would have attacked, we would have responded on February 23.
“The President has requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika outbreak, but that is not what House Republicans brought to the Floor today. Instead, they're putting forward legislation that would provide just $622 million, less than a third, as I said. That means we can't fully fund development of a vaccine, deployment of diagnostic testing, especially for pregnant women, and vector control to manage mosquito populations.
“In addition to its inadequate funding level, the Republican bill offsets the spending by further depleting funds that were appropriated to combat the Ebola virus. I know they're going to say they're going to back fill it, I won't hold my breath.
“The Administration has already been forced to borrow more than half a billion dollars from Ebola accounts while Congressional Republicans ignored its Zika supplemental funding request from February 22 to this day. That's no way, no way to handle public health crises. I urge my colleagues on the Republican side to join us to respond effectively to the President's request.
“Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, who supports the President's request, said last week – not Steny Hoyer, Democrat, Vern Buchanan, Republican. [He] said this: ‘all Members of Congress should take the virus seriously and put aside partisanship. Time is not on our side as the summer months draw near.’
“Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said in April, ‘Congress is going to have to explain to the people why it is that we sat around for weeks and did nothing on something of this magnitude.’ That's Marco Rubio.
“Let's work together to pass an emergency supplemental.
“[Rep.] Steve Womack said this, ‘if we fail to deal with the issue, and there are hardships that would be posed on society in this country, you wouldn't be able to compute those costs. It's a dice roll,’ he said, ‘to get into an argument about Zika funding and run [the] risk [in] having something catastrophic happen [and] we own it’ he said.
“You will own it if this gets out of hand and we don't have the appropriate resources deployed now. It should have been 30 days ago, 60 days ago, 90 days ago.
“Let's not have this become a crisis. Let us act now on the full sum necessary to meet this crisis. I would now be pleased to yield.”