News Releases

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Isakson Argues for Emergency Funding to Combat Zika Virus

‘It will be professional malpractice on our part if we leave here for seven weeks and have not dealt with this’

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., called on the Senate to immediately pass $1.1 billion for funding research to combat and prevent the spread of Zika virus. He noted that the political games that are currently holding up the legislation, including a veto threat from the Obama administration, do nothing to help mothers and babies who are crying out for help. 

At a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Tom Frieden confirmed Isakson’s concerns regarding the urgency of the crisis and the level of resources that the CDC needs to adequately prevent and control the spread of Zika virus, which is known to cause severe birth defects.

“I want to underline, CDC is always referred to as the Centers for Disease Control, but it’s …the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Isakson. “We’re at a critical point in addressing the Zika virus where the prevention needs to be what we focus on, because controlling it doesn’t do you any good once these cases start multiplying. …It will be professional malpractice on our part if we leave here for seven weeks and have not dealt with this.”

Isakson reminded fellow senators of the CDC’s success with eliminating the Ebola virus. He admonished Democrats over turning a critical healthcare issue into a political football.

“We can have our differences on a lot of things,” Isakson continued. “But we’ve got to do everything we can to get the resources in the hands of the CDC to develop a program of prevention.”

Isakson refuted two false claims from Democrats about the Zika funding bill. First, the bill does not include any provisions relating to the Confederate flag. Second, there are no provisions in the conference report that restrict funding for birth control or any other health service, and any Medicaid provider is eligible to be paid with these proposed Zika funds.

Isakson noted that his home state of Georgia is home to two types of Zika virus-carrying mosquitos and the matter is urgent for millions of Americans.

“The problem is it’s a delayed reaction. You find out today that a woman is pregnant. Nine months from now, you find out if there’s a problem, but nine months from now is too late. We need to help every troubled pregnancy we can today, and that’s why I want to focus on a need to pass this as quickly as possible in the United States Senate,” Isakson said.

Isakson ended by thanking Dr. Frieden, “for what you do to help protect the pregnant moms in America and the citizens in my state against what is a real threat.”

Isakson’s remarks from the hearing are available to watch here.

Background:

Isakson has led the charge to ensure that the CDC in Atlanta, Ga., has the resources it needs to reduce the threat of Zika virus to the United States and has called on Democrats to stop blocking this critically needed funding.

In April 2016, Isakson visited CDC headquarters along with U.S. Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, and was briefed on efforts to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.

On May 17, 2016, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation to allocate $1.1 billion in emergency funds to combat the spread of the Zika virus in the United States by a vote of 68-29. The final legislation pending before the Senate and being blocked by Democrats is the final report that irons out the differences between the legislation that passed the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

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