Alexander: No Excuse for Democrats’ Partisan Blocking of Funds for Zika Virus and Veterans

Posted on June 28, 2016

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Senate Democrats are letting politics get in the way of providing needed funding to help protect the health of pregnant women and unborn children from the Zika virus and to support veterans programs after they blocked a House-Senate agreement on a fiscal year 2017 funding bill.

“Zika is an urgent crisis for pregnant women and women who might soon become pregnant. There’s no excuse for Congress to delay its response. This legislation provides $1.1 billion for medical research to develop vaccines and laboratory tests to help protect pregnant women and unborn children from the tragic effects of the Zika virus outbreak. If we stay on schedule, a vaccine for Zika could be available as soon as 2018,” Alexander said. “Passing this bill will also fund veterans’ programs and military construction projects.  I voted for this bill because it sets priorities in a way that’s consistent with the spending limits Congress set in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and there’s absolutely no need for this delay.”

The Senate already passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill on May 19 by a vote of 89-8. The House of Representatives also passed its version of the funding bill on May 19 by a vote of 277 to 147. On June 23, the House passed the conference report by a vote of 239-171.

The House-Senate conference report provides $1.1 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development to combat the Zika virus. These dollars would support Zika response efforts, medical research for vaccines and diagnostic tests, and health and social services in afflicted areas.

The bill provides $82.3 billion in discretionary funding for military construction projects across the country and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs to support veterans programs and military infrastructure. It also includes $103.9 billion in mandatory funding for veteran compensation programs and veterans pensions.

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