On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted 68 -29 to provide $1.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare for a potential outbreak of the Zika virus in the United States. The Georgia delegation split with Senator Johnny Isakson voting yea and Senator David Perdue voting nay. Both senators sent out press releases to address the issue.
From Senator Isakson:
If anybody in the audience or this room doesn’t think this is an emergency, you should have been with Senator [Susan] Collins and I two weeks ago at the CDC in Atlanta. We spent four hours looking at the depiction of what a Zika outbreak is going to look like if it doesn’t stop and we don’t abate it.
There have already been 1 million cases in the Caribbean and Central America and South America, 500 cases in the United States of America and it’s going to grow. The faster we get our arms around it the better off the American people are going to be.
This is a lot of money but it is only a pittance compared to what it would cost if the epidemic got out of control and we didn’t stop it and defeat it.
Senator Perdue voted against the bill because it did not offset the new spending with cuts in other areas. He did vote for an alternative measure proposed by Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) that would have offset the $1.1 billion in new spending, but it was defeated 52-45. Here is an excerpt from his press release:
Zika is a serious public health risk facing the U.S. right now and it is essential that we address it responsibly. In my home state of Georgia, some of our country’s leading researchers located at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to help stop the spread of the Zika virus. After carefully examining the federal budget, I voted today to responsibly allocate federal funds to combat Zika and protect our communities, while not adding to the national debt.
President Obama requested $1.8 billion to fight Zika in February. He said the money would be spent on mosquito control, vaccine research, and public health education programs. Republicans were hesitant to authorize new spending because over $2.7 billion in leftover funds remained from the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak. The final $1.1 billion figure was a compromise that came after weeks of negotiations between Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA).
The issue was further complicated when House Republicans introduced a bill on Monday that provided only $622 million in Zika prevention funding. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill which is due for a vote on Wednesday. If the House bill passes as expected, the two legislative chambers will have to reconcile a difference of nearly $500 million between their funding proposals. Stay tuned. This one might get good.