MURPHY, 23 SENATORS CALL ON APPROPRIATORS TO FULLY FUND THE PRESIDENT’S $1.9 BILLION REQUEST TO FIGHT ZIKA OUTBREAK

Senators: “As the Zika public health emergency continues to grow, a robust and rapid U.S. response… must not come at the expense of our other urgent global health efforts.”

WASHINGTON —As the outbreak of the Zika virus continues to grow, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) led 23 senators today in calling on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund President Obama’s $1.9 billion emergency supplemental request to combat the Zika virus, while simultaneously maintaining the United States’ efforts to address other global health priorities, including Ebola. In a letter addressed to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, the senators highlighted the urgency of the U.S. response to the Zika virus, but also emphasized that a concurrent commitment to ending the Ebola epidemic is equally critical and should not be undermined or neglected. The senators warned that reducing funding for Ebola research and treatment to address the Zika virus would compromise public health infrastructures and increase health risks worldwide. 

“We respectfully request that you fully fund the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 emergency supplemental request of $1.9 billion to combat the Zika virus outbreak, without undermining ongoing efforts to address the Ebola epidemic. The World Health Organization projects the Zika virus could affect up to 4 million people in 2016, highlighting the urgency of a coordinated response to combat it. At the same time, the United States must continue to work with our international partners to confront a number of persistent and serious epidemics, including the Ebola virus that has caused more than 11,300 deaths since 2014,” wrote the Senators. “Dramatically reducing funding for the Ebola account now, in order to fund efforts against this new threat, would increase health risks worldwide while also sending a troubling message about the U.S. commitment to ending the current epidemic and preparing for future outbreaks.”

Murphy is a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In addition to Murphy, U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) signed the letter. Last month, Senator Murphy also joined a group of 26 Democratic senators in sending a letter to Republican leaders emphasizing the importance of prioritizing women’s access to reproductive health care in light of the spreading Zika virus.  

The full text of the letter is available online and below:

The Honorable Lindsey Graham The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chairman Ranking Member
Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations,
and Related Programs and Related Programs
Senate Appropriations Committee Senate Appropriations Committee
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Roy Blunt The Honorable Patty Murray
Chairman Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human
Services, Education, and Related Agencies Services, Education, and Related Agencies
Senate Appropriations Committee Senate Appropriations Committee
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

Dear Subcommittee Chairman Graham, Subcommittee Ranking Member Leahy, Subcommittee Chairman Blunt, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Murray:

We respectfully request that you fully fund the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 emergency supplemental request of $1.9 billion to combat the Zika virus outbreak, without undermining ongoing efforts to address the Ebola epidemic. As the Zika public health emergency continues to grow, a robust and rapid U.S. response is critical to better understand the virus and to protect those most at risk, but it must not come at the expense of our other urgent global health efforts.

On February 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a public health emergency after it spread to more than two dozen countries and territories throughout the Americas and Pacific Islands, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Zika has been linked with microcephaly, a serious birth defect that results in head and brain abnormalities, and, in severe cases, long-term cognitive consequences including developmental delay, problems with vision, and epilepsy in children. Zika has also been tied to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause muscle weakness and in some cases, paralysis. As of February 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 82 laboratory-confirmed, travel-related Zika cases in the continental United States. The WHO projects the Zika virus could affect up to 4 million people in 2016, highlighting the urgency of a coordinated response to combat it.

At the same time, the United States must continue to work with our international partners to confront a number of persistent and serious epidemics, including the Ebola virus that has caused more than 11,300 deaths since 2014. We must remain vigilant to help the countries most severely impacted by Ebola – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone – address new cases, build up their public health infrastructures, and develop and stockpile vaccines and treatments for future outbreaks. Dramatically reducing funding for the Ebola account now, in order to fund efforts against this new threat, would increase health risks worldwide while also sending a troubling message about the U.S. commitment to ending the current epidemic and preparing for future outbreaks.

As health officials in the region prepare for increased transmission of Zika in the coming spring and summer months, the United States must be ready with a robust response. The President’s emergency supplemental request will help fund laboratory testing, education, and the research and development of new vaccines, as well as establish surveillance and rapid response efforts. We therefore respectfully urge you to fully fund this emergency request without neglecting our critical efforts to address other global health priorities.

Sincerely,


Christopher S. Murphy

Edward J. Markey

Cory A. Booker

Jeanne Shaheen

Richard J. Durbin

Dianne Feinstein

Barbara Boxer

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

Sherrod Brown

Debbie Stabenow

Kirsten Gillibrand

Jack Reed

Ron Wyden

Mazie K. Hirono

Brian Schatz

Bill Nelson

Sheldon Whitehouse

Bernard Sanders

Gary C. Peters

Al Franken

Richard Blumenthal

Elizabeth Warren

Christopher A. Coons

Michael F. Bennet