East Hawaii News

Lawmakers Urge House Speaker to Take Zika Funding to Floor

May 17, 2016, 3:29 PM HST
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NIAID photo.

NIAID photo.

Over 120 lawmakers urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to take action to combat the Zika virus by bringing President Barack Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to the House floor.

The request came as Senate members voted and passed $1.1 billion in funding to fight the virus.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard was among the lawmakers who penned a letter to Speaker Ryan.

“We write to you today to express our extreme concern over the increasing threat posed by the Zika virus,” the letter began. “As you know, there are significant challenges associated with combating Zika, and we must act swiftly to ensure that we have all of the necessary tools at our disposal, including robust funding to support research and response efforts. That is why we support the administration’s full request of $1.9 billion in emergency appropriations to combat this international public health threat. We strongly urge you to bring such legislation to the floor.

“In recent months, it has become evident that we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the Zika virus—how it works and what its immediate and long-term health implications are. As it continues to spread, it is imperative that we make immediate, sustained investments in research that, hopefully, will yield a Zika vaccine, diagnostic method and guide our continued response strategy. We are encouraged by the research being done across the country, including in many of our districts, but there is still much we do not understand. Until we have these answers, we must prioritize robust funding for Zika research.

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“Zika has spread rapidly in other parts of the world and we are seeing the same pattern here in the U.S. There are at least 503 reported cases of Zika in the U.S. to date and at least 701 reported cases in U.S. territories. Among these, pregnant women account for 113 cases. This number will continue to rise until Congress acts. Given the neonatal neurological implications of this virus, it is unconscionable to further delay action on this very critical issue.

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“We must not underestimate just how destructive invasive pests and diseases can be. We are gravely concerned about the implications of this virus and, for this reason, research, and response efforts have our full and steadfast support. We urge you to give this your full and fast consideration and ask that you bring to the floor legislation to provide $1.9 billion in emergency appropriations for Zika.”

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