Monday, September 26, 2016

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson wages fight in Congress against Zika Virus

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

On September 12, 2016, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson spoke on the Senate floor in support of a bipartisan effort to provide emergency funding to fight the Zika virus. He also spoke about a September 10 Miami Herald article highlighting the dangers of undercounting the extent of virus’ spread. According to the article, “the information issued by the governor and state agencies has not been timely or accurate - cases announced as ‘new’ are often several weeks old, due to a time lag in diagnosis - and excludes details that public health experts say would allow people to make informed decisions and provide a complete picture of Zika’s foothold in Florida.” As of September 14, 2016, there were more than 800 cases of Zika in Florida, including 71 cases of local transmission and 86 cases involving pregnant women. CLICK TO VIEW SPEECH

On September 7, Senator Nelson spoke on the Senate floor, urging his colleagues to “stop playing games” with funding to fight Zika, and urged Senate Majority Leader McConnell to take up and pass the same $1.1 billion Zika-funding bill that the Senate overwhelmingly passed in May. Since then, Leader McConnell has only allowed votes on Zika-funding bills that contain additional controversial issues such as a proposal to cut family planning services for low-income families in Puerto Rico, where over 15,000 Zika cases have been identified, and also proposals that take funding from efforts to control the Ebola virus, as well as other healthcare funding under the Affordable Care Act. CLICK TO VIEW SPEECH

On August 10, Senator Nelson joined seven Florida Democratic House Members in sending a letter urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary to ensure a sustainable funding stream for the development of a Zika vaccine. The letter states, “We recognize that any option that involve moving resources from other parts of your budget require raiding other vital work that is being done at your Department. And, for this reason, we would only recommend this type of extraordinary step if there were no other choice. Unfortunately, the Republican Congress has left you no other options.”

On August 4, Senator Nelson joined 40 Democratic Senators in writing to the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader urging them to immediately cancel the remainder of the congressional recess and get back to work to protect the American public from the Zika virus. The letter states, “Congress left for the August recess after House Republicans killed a bipartisan compromise bill that received 89 votes in the Senate. Republican leadership acquiesced to their extreme right-wing Members, who demanded poison pill special-interest priorities…”

On August 2, Senator Nelson wrote to Senate Majority Leader McConnell to use a pro forma session during recess to pass Zika funding without having to reconvene the Senate body. The letter reads, “If you feel it would be too difficult to immediately reconvene the entire Senate, you and Sen. Reid could, under Senate rules, simply agree during one of the remaining nine pro forma sessions to allow a senator by unanimous consent to take up and pass the same $1.1 billion Zika-funding bill that the Senate overwhelmingly passed back in May….”

On July 29, Senator Nelson wrote to Senator McConnell urging him to exercise his power as Senate Majority Leader to immediately reconvene the Senate so the Senate could pass an emergency spending bill that would have provided our health officials with the resources they need to contain the spread of the Zika virus. Senator Nelson sent the letter following the Florida Department of Health’s announcement that mosquitoes in South Florida infected at least four people in the Wynwood neighborhood.

In addition to Senator Nelson’s fight against the Zika virus you can learn more about his most recent activities while in Congress by clicking the link below.