Wicker: Senate Backs Emergency Zika Funding

Miss. Senator Supports Amendment to Provide Additional Resources for Fighting Disease

May 17, 2016

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today voted in favor of a proposal to allocate emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, which poses a public health threat that can be especially harmful to pregnant women and newborn babies. The bipartisan provision, authored by Senators Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., was successfully added to a spending bill to fund transportation, military construction, and veterans affairs programs by a vote of 68-29.

“Fighting Zika is a public health priority,” Wicker said. “Experts have said that these emergency resources are absolutely necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of all Americans. The legislation would remove many regulatory burdens facing researchers and would incentivize the development of new medicines.”

Specifically, the Blunt-Murray amendment would provide $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. It would also reimburse certain funds toward fighting Zika that had been previously repurposed. Additionally, it would provide funds administered through current federal programs for targeted work in Puerto Rico and other territories, where cases of the virus in pregnant women have been confirmed.

There have been three confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Mississippi, each one travel-related. Health officials have reported that the virus can be transmitted through the Aedes albopictus mosquito, which can be found in many parts of the state.

The Obama Administration has requested $1.9 billion for Zika response efforts. In April, the Administration announced that it would reprogram $589 million for Zika, including $510 million in unobligated Ebola funds.

Wicker also supported an amendment offered by Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would provide $1.1 billion for Zika response efforts but was offset by redirecting money from Obamacare’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. This amendment failed to reach the mandatory 60-vote threshold.