Mikulski Floor Statement on Urgent Need to Pass Zika Emergency Supplemental
***Audio of statement – here (broadcast quality)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke on the Senate floor about the need to take immediate action and pass the President’s $1.9 billion emergency supplemental request to address the threat of the Zika virus. Earlier, Republicans objected to Senator Reid’s and Senator Nelson’s effort to take up the emergency Zika supplemental.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as delivered:
“I rise to take the floor as the Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee to urge that we adopt an urgent supplemental request to deal with the Zika virus threat here in the U.S. and at its epicenter.
“This is real. It’s been two months since the Administration sent Congress an emergency supplemental request. We can’t wait any longer. The mosquitoes are here. They are actually here in the United States of America. And I’ve said, first with wit, and now with deep concern, you can’t build a wall to keep the mosquitos out. The mosquitos aren’t going to pay for this. We need to act, and we need to act now.
“This is a compelling public health crisis, and we can do something about it. We take an oath to defend all Americans against enemies foreign and domestic. This is about to be a self-inflicted wound on our own people because of our failure to act with no reliable tested public health interventions or mosquito control. We’ve got to take action to develop these.
“Why do we have to do this? Because as of April 20th, there have been close to 900 cases confirmed in the U.S. We already know that they are in three states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) knows that it’s coming to at least 30 states in our own country, and it will have incredible consequences, particularly to women.
“Now I have heard over the years many eloquent, poignant and even wrenching speeches about protecting the unborn. And they have been deeply moving. We’ve tried to always find common ground on this. But if you are really for defending the unborn, you’ve got to pass this supplemental.
“There are women all over the United States, particularly in the three vulnerable states, and there are women in Puerto Rico who are wondering if they’re already pregnant, what is their situation? There are young women and not so young women who are concerned about getting pregnant and bitten during mosquito season because there are sparse resources to do mosquito control.
“The threat of Zika is not difficult to solve. This is about mosquito control. It is also about education and developing a vaccine. I am very concerned that we are just sitting around, and that when all is said and done more is getting said than gets done.
“We are talking about an emergency supplemental. Now, the Appropriations Committee has a very clear set of criteria for what is an emergency. First of all, it has to be urgent. Well, the mosquito season is here. It has to be unforeseen. This was unforeseen. And it has to be temporary. It’s mosquito season. It is a confined season. We can do something about it, and we must do something about it.
“It will have a disproportionate impact on pregnant women and the unborn, children born with the most horrendous, heartbreaking birth defects. I’m of the Polio generation. My mother wouldn’t let my sisters and I go swimming until after June 20th because somehow or another it was in our faith - St. John's Day. We thought the water would be warmer. Maybe the Saint blessed the water. God bless the saints.
“But God bless people like Dr. Salk and God bless America which funded the Salk vaccines. I remember children needing iron lungs to be kept alive, children with braces that walked with these very difficult canes, and those who survive bear this the rest of their life.
“Look at what we're facing here. We know what it is – this is not unknown nor is it unmanageable. It will be a national disgrace if we don't act.
“In my own home state of Maryland, I have a Republican governor, Governor Larry Hogan. Guess what? Governor Hogan is acting. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. Governor Hogan acted. He declared April 24th through the 30th Zika Awareness Week. He’s ordered his Health Department to coordinate educational events with local Health Departments. They also spent $130,000 of state money to develop 10,000 transmission kits to begin addressing this virus. My Republican Governor has taken action.
“In Anne Arundel County, the county that’s home to our state capitol – again headed up by a Republican County Executive – they received 850 kits. They’re going to have town hall meetings to talk about health with agricultural officials on prevention and mosquito control. The Republican Governor and Republican County Executive are acting.
“Then there’s Howard County where the Health Department is planning to distribute 450 kits to obstetric and gynecological practices to protect pregnant women. Again, a Republican County Executive working with his administration, is taking action, spending local money when this is a national problem.
“I’m saying this because my own Governor is acting as well as these County Executives. Then in Baltimore City the Democratic Mayor listened to the warnings coming from the World Health Organization, the CDC and the Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. She has, again, taken action and Baltimore is now spraying and making mosquito control efforts, spending over $500,000 of local money – of which we don’t have a lot.
“So, hello! Maryland is acting! We need to act! I say this because we’re spending local money to deal with a national and international problem. So please, whatever differences we have with other bills, please let’s take up this urgent emergency supplemental.”
Contact: Mara Stark-Alcalá (202) 224-2667
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