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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rep. Dennis Ross say he supports $1.9 billion for Zika fight

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross says he supports President Obama's request for $1.9 billion to fight Zika.

The money is being held up over a fight with Republicans, who have questioned the amount and say money already allocated should be used first. Florida Republicans had been generally quiet but some have come out in support, including Rep. Vern Buchanan and now Ross. Sen. Marco Rubio also supports more money.

“I support the President’s funding request so we can efficiently fight against and prevent the dangerous effects of the Zika virus," Ross said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "This is not a matter of political sides. This is a matter of protecting and saving lives, and I will do all within my power to protect my constituents and all Americans. When our homeland was threatened by the Ebola outbreak in 2014, I immediately introduced legislation and supported efforts to eliminate its threat.

“The U.S. recently experienced its first fatality caused by Zika, and my home state of Florida has the highest count of detected cases, now at 109. Florida Governor Rick Scott even declared a public health emergency in my very own district, and the World Health Organization has called Zika a global public health emergency. The CDC has also placed its emergency operations center on its highest level of activation as a result of the Zika outbreak, which has only been done three times before—Ebola, the 2009 swine flu epidemic, and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“The emerging outbreak of this tropical virus is a public health crisis demanding an immediate and urgent response, which is why I also co-sponsored H.R. 4400, the Adding Zika Virus to the FDA Priority Review Voucher Program Act. This bill seeks to add the Zika virus to the list of diseases included in the Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We need to do everything we can to ensure we eliminate any roadblocks to the development, testing and ultimate distribution of a vaccine for the Zika virus. I will continue to pursue avenues to protect the people of District 15, Florida and the entire U.S. from this dangerous virus.”

Other Florida lawmakers also issued statements today:

Rep. David Jolly:

"I support immediate funding for necessary prevention, education, and research to combat Zika, which is why I recently voted to reprogram approximately $600 million from unspent Ebola money to the fight against Zika. I also support immediate passage of an emergency FY2016 emergency supplemental appropriations bill to cover any additional unmet needs. But we also must be good stewards of the taxpayer.

"The current proposal by the President and leading Democrats assumes today that this will be a two year crisis and it unnecessarily commits two years of taxpayer money to the effort, regardless of whether the money will actually be needed in year two. The proposal also expands the federal taxpayer share of Medicaid for Puerto Rico and other territories while ignoring direct assistance for healthcare delivery in our home state of Florida. Additionally, the Democrats' proposal allows for construction of federal properties on leased land that may ultimately drive up new costs to taxpayers.

"There are critical flaws in the current proposal by the President and Congressional Democrats, but nothing that can't be reconciled. While we disagree on some of the particulars of the current proposal, our entire delegation can agree on the need to reach a responsible solution with urgency. Let's ensure we extract the politics from what is a potential public health threat, and resolve this issue together as a bipartisan Florida delegation. That is my commitment.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

“This afternoon, I met with Governor Scott to discuss the ongoing battle with the Zika virus. As Floridians, we understand the urgent need to address this public health issue. It is significant to note that because of pressure from the House Appropriations Committee, the Administration has transferred and made $600 million immediately available to fight this virus. The Administration has not provided the Committee or Congress with the proper information as to how exactly any newly proposed funds will be spent. We have a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer money is used effectively and is not wasted. Regardless, I have been working with my colleagues, both on the Appropriations Committee and in our Florida delegation, to provide the necessary funds at the federal level to combat the virus. Speaker Paul Ryan and House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers have made it clear they are committed to providing the Administration with what is needed to fight Zika.

“I thank Governor Scott for taking the time to meet with myself and Congressmen Bilirakis and Curbelo. Zika has the potential to become a public health crisis, and Governor Scott’s leadership on this issue is vital and very much appreciated. Working together at the state and federal levels will result in the best response to fight this disease before it continues to spread.”

Rep. Gus Bilirakis

“Our meeting with Governor Scott was very productive, and I look forward to working together, along with other FL members, and the federal government, to ensure all FL communities, and communities across the country, are safe. I have been on the front lines in the fight to address Zika. I discussed this issue with witnesses from FDA, NIH, CDC, and HHS during a hearing earlier this year and co-sponsored H.R. 4400, the Adding Zika Virus to the FDA Priority Review Voucher Program Act, which became law earlier this year. This bill allows the developer of a vaccine or treatment for a qualifying tropical disease to receive a voucher for FDA priority review for a second product of its choice, and will help immensely in the fight against the virus. There is no doubt funding is necessary to address the issue, however, we must determine funds are being used efficiently to keep individuals safe and prevent the spread of Zika. I have heard directly from stakeholders involved in preventing the spread of Zika - they have concerns about how the funds would be allocated. As we in Congress continue working with stakeholders to determine the best plan of attack, I will continue to be as proactive as possible. My top priority is to keep us safe.”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo

"I thank Governor Scott for his support in urging Congress to come together and fund eradication efforts of the Zika virus. As representatives from the state of Florida, we understand the real threat that Zika poses to our families and neighbors. We also discussed my bill, the Zika Eradication and Good Government Act, to ensure that when federal funds are disbursed, agencies tasked to fight the disease share best practice methods. It is critical that we continue to collaborate on finding solutions to reduce and ultimately eliminate the threat of Zika.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 4:33pm]


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