June 27, 2016
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, today called on Senate Democrats to pass the conference report providing critical funding to combat the Zika virus and support our nation’s veterans. The conference report reconciles differences between the House and Senate on two measures: the amendment Blunt introduced with Senator Patty Murray (Wash.) to provide funding for Zika response efforts, and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, both of which passed the Senate on May 19, 2016. Blunt is a member of the House-Senate conference committee on the Zika legislation.
“The Zika virus poses a serious public health threat, and it would be reprehensible for Senate Democrats to block funding that is needed to help keep Americans safe, particularly pregnant mothers and their babies,” Blunt said. “The conference agreement provides $1.1 billion in emergency funding for priority initiatives focused on prevention, control, and treatment of the Zika virus. That is the same level of funding that every Democrat supported when the amendment passed the Senate. And, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden, it is the level of funding required to meet the immediate needs of the CDC’s response efforts. Nevertheless, Senate Democrats are threatening to block the bill to extract more money for nonessential projects in the president’s original request, and to upend efforts to provide funding in a fiscally-responsible way. And, they’re misrepresenting other aspects of the bill in a transparent attempt to cover for their political gamesmanship. There are currently 1,860 confirmed Zika cases in U.S. territories and 819 travel-associated cases in the continental United States. This is a real public health emergency; not an opportunity to score political points.
“It is just as unconscionable for Democrats to stand in the way of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill, which provides a $2.5 billion increase over last year’s level to ensure that veterans receive the care and benefits they’ve earned. The Milcon/VA bill provides a four percent increase in discretionary funding for VA programs to improve access to care, support additional health services, and assist homeless veterans. It provides resources to keep our country safe, including funding for the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s west headquarters in St. Louis. Finally, the bill enhances military housing to improve the quality of life for our servicemembers and their families.
“Congress has a responsibility to keep Americans safe, and to honor the commitments we’ve made to those who have served. If Democrats fail to meet those obligations by voting against this conference agreement, they will have to explain that to the American people.”