Alexander: Senate Democrats Block $1.1 Billion to Help Save Babies from Zika-Related Birth Defects

Says it is “inexplicable” Democrats blocking a bill when CDC Director Frieden says delay “is impeding our ability to protect American women from this virus”

Posted on July 14, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 14, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that Senate Democrats blocked $1.1 billion in emergency funds to help save babies from being born with birth defects related to the Zika virus “because of a provision that directs funds to Medicaid providers in Puerto Rico.”

“It is inexplicable that Senate Democrats are blocking a bill that would provide millions of dollars to hospitals, public health departments, community health centers, and health care providers in Puerto Rico, simply because some of the money is directed to providers that the Puerto Rican government has deemed Medicaid-eligible in Puerto Rico,” Alexander said.

“It’s July, the mosquitoes are out, and it’s time to eradicate the mosquitoes carrying Zika. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked for money, and so we are ready to pass $1.1 billion for Zika. We don’t need mosquito control in the winter. We need it in the summer, and we need to pass it now. If Democrats would stop blocking this bill, and we stay on schedule, a vaccine for Zika could be available as soon as 2018.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden has underscored the need for funding to combat Zika, telling reporters last month the delay “is impeding our ability to protect American women from this virus.” He also expressed concern that mosquito transmission in the United States will increase in the summer months, telling reporters that mosquito season “is just heating up, and so is Zika.” Dr. Frieden has encouraged more mosquito control, including new products to kill the insects.

On June 23, the House of Representatives passed this legislation 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.  

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