(CNSNews.com) – Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined with Senate Democratic women Thursday in calling for the emergency funding of Zika virus research, saying it is just a matter of time before there is a Zika transmission from mosquitoes inside the U.S.
Rubio said he visited Florida last week and met with health officials who are “freaked out about this Zika thing.”
“If they’re freaked out, then I’m very concerned about it as well, and that’s why I do support fully and immediately funding this situation, and I’ve asked our colleagues to do so as quickly as possible,” Rubio said on the Senate floor.
President Barack Obama asked for Congress to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funds for Zika research. Republicans have been opposed to approving the emergency funds, calling instead on the president to reshuffle existing funds. They say any money used can be paid back in future legislation.
They also argue that approving the funds now will be tantamount to writing a blank check for the administration to use for other priorities besides Zika.
“I told the White House I’d be supportive of a supplemental if they could show me where the money goes and what it could do,” said Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). chairman of the Senate subcommittee responsible for foreign aid.
Rubio said the spread of mosquitoes in Florida is “massive.”
“Just a few weeks ago, they said … Zika only impacts a small population of people. We’re learning that this disease impacts whoever it touches. You don’t have to be symptomatic to spread it. There are multiple ways,” he said. “In Florida alone, we’ve had at least two cases of transmission – sexually transmitted.
“By the way, it’s just a matter of time before someone in Florida gets bit by a mosquito … before you’ll open up a newspaper, turn on the news and it’s going to say someone in the continental United States was bitten by a mosquito and they contracted Zika,” Rubio said.
“When that happens, then everyone’s going to be freaked out – not just me and not just the people that work for the health department in Florida. This is going to happen. There’s just way too many mosquitoes to avoid it,” he said.
“Miami Dade County in particular, but a lot of Florida, is a transit point for all of South America. So for example, one of the places most impacted by Zika is Brazil. Well this summer, there’s an Olympics in Brazil, and there are going to be hundreds of thousands of people that cross through Florida to get to Brazil and back, on top of the normal number of travelers,” Rubio said.
“It is just a matter of time. It is not a question of if. It is a question of when, so I look at this from a Senate perspective and say we are going to fund this. We are going to spend money on Zika in Washington, D.C., number one, because we should. It is the obligation of the federal government to keep our people safe, and this is an imminent and do we do it now before this has become a crisis,” he said.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was one of several Senate Democratic women who spoke out on the Senate floor before to Rubio spoke to call for approving the supplemental that will fund emergency Zika research.
“This is about to be a self-afflicted wound on our own people, because of our failure to act with known, reliable, tested public health interventions on mosquito control. We’ve gotta take action to do this, and why? Because as of April 20th, there’ve been close to 900 cases confirmed in the United States of America,” she said.
“We already know that they’re in three states. CDC knows that it is going to come to at least 30 states in our own country, and it will have incredible consequences, particularly to women,” Mikulski said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of April 27, there have been 426 “travel-associated Zika virus disease cases” inside the U.S. and so far none have been “locally acquired.” Of the 426 “travel-associated” Zika cases, 36 are pregnant women, eight have been sexually transmitted, and one was due to Guillain-Barré syndrome – “a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. “
Within the U.S. territories, however, there have been three “travel-associated” cases and 596 locally acquired cases – a total of 599. Of those, 56 are pregnant women and five were due to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Mikulski said she has been moved by speeches by the pro-life movement about defending the unborn, and that’s why she said funding Zika legislation is important.
“Now I have heard over the years many eloquent, poignant and even wrenching speeches about protecting the unborn, and they’ve been deeply moving. We’ve tried to always find common ground on this, but if you are really for defending the unborn, you’ve got to pass this supplemental,” she said.
Mikulski said there are women all over the U.S. wondering if they are pregnant and those who are concerned about getting pregnant and getting bitten by a mosquito.
“There are women all over the United States, particularly in these three vulnerable states. There are women in Puerto Rico who are wondering if they’re already pregnant, what is their situation. There are young women, and not-so young women who are concerned about getting pregnant at the same time bitten by a mosquito for which there are sparse resources to do mosquito control,” she said.
“Now we want to build fences to keep out illegal aliens, okay. We want to bomb the hell out of ISIS and terrorists. We should because we’re worried that they’re coming at us, though in many of those instances, these are problems that have been difficult to solve. This is not difficult to solve. This is about mosquito control,” she said.