Appropriations Committee Sends Joint House and Senate Letter to the White House Urging Action on Zika Funding
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, along with Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran and other senior members of the House and Senate committees, today sent a joint letter to President Obama urging White House action on Zika funding.
Senate Democrats today again blocked legislation that would immediately fund efforts to prevent and fight the spread of the Zika virus. Chairmen Rogers and Cochran wrote that given the critical need for these funds and absent the funding that was blocked today, the White House should “aggressively use funds already available to mount a strong defense against the virus.”
The full text of the letter is below:
July 14, 2016
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Your Administration has asked Congress to provide additional resources to prepare for, and prevent, the spread of the Zika virus. We have responded by both supporting the reprioritization of existing resources and passing through our respective chambers legislation that would provide additional Zika response funding.
On February 18, 2016, we called upon your Administration to repurpose available funds to be spent immediately to fight the disease. On April 6, 2016, you did so through the use of existing authorities, repurposing $589 million for Zika response activities. Given the urgency of your request, we were surprised last week when Politico reported the following based on information shared by Administration officials: “The Obama administration has so far distributed only about one-sixth of the unspent Ebola funding that it diverted to combat the Zika virus.” This money is available immediately to prepare for and combat Zika, yet is seemingly not being spent.
The House passed a conference report that would provide an additional $1.1 billion in emergency supplemental funding to continue to prepare for, and prevent, Zika both domestically and internationally. It is unfortunate that Democrats have blocked action on this legislation in the Senate. The conference report provides the same amount of funding that every Senate Democrat previously supported. It fully funds vaccine research, and increases funding for mosquito spraying and eradication, Zika surveillance, and advanced development of treatments and diagnostics. The conference agreement provides the same access to health services as your supplemental request, contains no new prohibition on any health service, and expands access to health services in Puerto Rico beyond your initial request.
If Senate Democrats continue to block consideration of Zika legislation, we urge you to aggressively use funds already available to mount a strong defense against the virus. We also note that the fiscal year 2016 appropriations bills allow the Administration access to additional funds. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has transfer authority that can be used as an additional source for Zika preparedness. The previous Secretary did not hesitate to use this authority to support the failing Affordable Care Act Exchanges. The Secretary of State also has authority to reprogram funding to provide additional foreign assistance to address the Zika virus outside the United States.
We urge you to use available funding now to ensure our nation is prepared.
Rep. Hal Rogers, Chairman, House Appropriations Committee
Sen. Thad Cochran, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee
Rep. Tom Cole, Chairman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services
Sen. Roy Blunt, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services
Rep. Kay Granger, Chairwoman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations
Sen. Lindsey Graham, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations
A pdf version of the letter is available here.