(House of Representatives - September 08, 2016)

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[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 135 (Thursday, September 8, 2016)]
[Pages H5166-H5167]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              {time}  1015
                        FUND THE ZIKA EMERGENCY

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
North Carolina (Mr. Price) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, we often hear from 
constituents who are frustrated by Congress' failure to act on many of 
the most pressing issues facing our country.
  Seven weeks ago, as if we were determined to confirm this indictment, 
Congress adjourned for summer recess with a long list of critical 
unfinished business. We came nowhere near finishing our appropriations 
bills, leaving open the question of whether we can even keep the 
government open past September 30. We failed to pass the most 
rudimentary gun violence measures, leaving the tragedies of San 
Bernardino and Orlando unaddressed.
  And then there was Zika, perhaps the most incredible failure of all. 
With an epidemic bearing down on us--an epidemic with disastrous human 
consequences, but with a prescribed course of action that could do much 
to prevent and mitigate the catastrophe--still, Congress refused to 
  Now we are back in session, facing daily headlines about the dangers 
posed by Zika. The number of Zika travel-related cases in the 
continental U.S. is increasing, the number of pregnant women infected 
is growing, and the number of babies being born--or worse, lost--with 
microcephaly or other Zika-related complications is rising. Increasing 
numbers of mosquito-borne cases have been reported in Puerto Rico and 
south Florida. I learned this week that five service members and 
retirees from Fort Bragg in North Carolina are being treated for Zika.
  It has been more than 6 months since the President requested an 
emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.9 billion from Congress to 
fund Zika preparedness, response, and prevention, as

[[Page H5167]]

well as critical research. The request was carefully and 
comprehensively documented and justified.
  In the meantime, our local, State, and Federal public health agencies 
and authorities have continued to shift funds and reorder priorities in 
an attempt to get a handle on this public health emergency. Indeed, our 
own universities and other research centers have been shifting money 
around for months, as I learned at a conference I helped organize in 
North Carolina on June 7.
  Researchers testified there as to the great promise of the work they 
are doing, but also as to the great efforts they have been required to 
make, in the face of inadequate and uncertain funding, to ensure that 
the work continues. I left that conference impressed and encouraged by 
the work that was going on. But I also left chagrined and angered at 
the way Congress, under Republican leadership, with no serious attempt 
at bipartisan cooperation, is letting these dedicated researchers and 
the entire country down.
  The House and Senate Republican conference report contains only $1.1 
billion of the requested funds, but the larger problem is that it robs 
other critical public health priorities--notably, Ebola, but also 
disaster preparedness--in order to satisfy Republican budget 
  Adding insult to injury, the Republican conference report also 
includes several misguided and dangerous policy riders. These poison 
pills would severely limit access to contraceptives in Puerto Rico, 
where thousands of cases of Zika have been recorded. It would take yet 
another shot at Planned Parenthood and would roll back certain clean 
water regulations, ostensibly to allow for the increased spraying of 
  I recently met with Director Anthony S. Fauci of the National 
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who explained the 
incredible lengths to which NIH and CDC have gone in order to protect 
the health of the American people. They have desperately cobbled 
together a budget, most recently taking money even from vital research 
into cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease, and other diseases. Despite 
such extraordinary efforts, the CDC and NIH will run out of money after 
October 1.
  Mr. Speaker, it is imperative that we honor the President's request 
of $1.9 billion in a bill free of destructive offsets and ideological 
riders. It is crucial that Congress take action for the pregnant women 
in their first trimesters who are scared to leave their homes; for the 
children born with a range of disabilities, of which microcephaly is 
only the worst; for the service men and women stationed across the 
globe who are at particular risk; and for the 25 percent of Puerto 
Rico's population who will potentially contract this disease.
  We can and we must as a country do better than this. Let's do the 
right thing for our constituents, our country, and for the rest of the 
world by finally funding this public health emergency. We have long 
since run out of excuses. We can wait no longer.