Vote Explanation for H.R. 5243 — Zika Response Appropriations Act of 2016

Last week I voted against H.R. 5243, a bill proposed by the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, that would only partially fund our efforts to combat the Zika virus epidemic. The United States has a responsibility to its citizens and to the world to help stop the dangerous spread of this virus, which has already resulted in birth defects in children throughout South America, and has infected 258 people in the United States, including 18 pregnant women. To inadequately fund efforts to combat this epidemic is to put a bandaid over a bullet hole — woefully ineffective.

Chairman Roger’s proposal would provide less than one-third of the money requested by the President to combat the spread of the Zika virus. Not only does this level insufficiently fund the Centers for Disease Control, the government agency charged with studying ways to effectively prevent the spread of disease, but it also fails to provide funding for the research and rapid development of new vaccines and diagnostic tests that we will need as the summer months approach, and the threat of Zika spreading our southern states increases.

Finally, this bill fails our commitments to our territories and to our allies. It fails Puerto Rico, offering no additional medicaid assistance despite more known instances of Zika in Puerto Rico than in any other U.S. territory or state; and it fails our allies, by barring U.S. commitments to the World Health Organization or any other international entity seeking to stop the spread of Zika. This is a complete failure to fulfill the leadership position that our nation has held in previous global crises. It shows an utter lack of compassion for the individuals, families, and children who have already been infected by this virus abroad.

I earlier joined my democratic colleagues in writing a letter to Speaker Ryan asking that he fully fund our efforts to combat this crisis at the amount of $1.9 billion, as requested by the President, and I maintain steadfast in my commitment to this effort.