Senate Democrats Should Not Block Critical Veterans Funding, Anti-Zika Efforts
‘The agreement before us is a compromise with input from both parties, and it represents the last chance we’ll have to address Zika for weeks…There’s no reason Democrats should reverse course now and block funding for Zika control in the midst of mosquito season. There’s no reason they should put partisan politics above the health of pregnant women and babies. And there’s no reason they should block support for our veterans either…We owe it to each and every veteran who has sacrificed to help ke
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the need to advance important bipartisan funding measures to address Zika and support veterans:
“Combatting the spread of the Zika virus should be a priority for both parties. We worked hard to forge a compromise solution that made $1.1 billion available to fight this virus. That compromise plan already passed the Senate with the unanimous support of Democrats. We now have a bicameral agreement that provides the exact same compromise level of funding.
“The House did its job and approved the legislation. The Senate can now do its job and send that legislation to the President. Democrats joined Republicans in sounding the alarm about Zika — but now we’re at the finish line, and suddenly our friends across the aisle are changing their tune.
“Here’s what the fourth-ranking Senate Democrat recently said: ‘Families are looking to Congress for action on Zika. It is well past time that we delivered’…so, will she help the Senate deliver tomorrow — or play partisan politics?
“Here’s what the third-ranking Senate Democrat recently said: ‘Every day we wait, every day is increasing the risk that we will have problems with Zika’…so, will he help the Senate take action tomorrow — or play partisan politics?
“Here’s what the second-ranking Senate Democrat recently said: ‘…the mosquitoes carrying this deadly virus are on the march’…so, will he help the Senate arrest that march before the Fourth of July — or play partisan politics?
“Here’s what the Democrat Leader recently said: ‘every day we wait is a bad day…for America and the world’…so, will he help the Senate pass this $1.1 billion Zika control funding compromise — or play partisan politics and delay action for weeks?
“And here’s the White House, which recently called for congressional action on Zika by July 4th: ‘[T]he time to prepare before Zika begins to spread in the continental United States is rapidly closing…[W]e need some congressional action. We need a sense of urgency and we need it now.’
“Democrats have tried to claim they weren’t involved in the negotiations over this legislation, but they were from beginning to end — and the House agreed to the funding level that Democrats supported unanimously. Democrats have tried to trot out the ‘War on Women’ playbook, but this legislation actually provides more resources for women’s health services — through hospitals, health departments, community health centers, and other public programs. Democrats have even tried to claim this Zika legislation would endanger clean water protections, but it won’t — it contains a temporary, targeted compromise that will allow experts to actually get at mosquito control, the root cause of Zika, in an effective way while we wait for a vaccine.
“The agreement before us is a compromise with input from both parties, and it represents the last chance we’ll have to address Zika for weeks.
“The CDC director testified that the $1.1 billion funding level will allow him ‘to do the things we need to do in the immediate term.’ ‘[T]he sooner we get a bill,’ he said, ‘the better.’
“Senate Democrats have already unanimously supported the $1.1 billion in funding to combat the virus. Voting to block this bill now will delay Zika control funding well beyond the White House’s deadlines. There’s no reason Democrats should reverse course now and block funding for Zika control in the midst of mosquito season. There’s no reason they should put partisan politics above the health of pregnant women and babies. And there’s no reason they should block support for our veterans either.
“This legislation before us will honor commitments to the men and women who have served to protect us. It includes a significant increase for the VA to help improve the quality of health care services and benefits that our veterans have earned, it will enhance oversight and accountability at the VA, and it will help improve quality of life on military bases for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and their families.
“Our men and women in uniform make sacrifices daily on our behalf — sacrifices like missing special moments with their families…like being stationed in distant places far from home…like suffering physical wounds they’ll carry with them long after their service is over. Sadly too many of our servicemembers are also burdened by wounds that cannot be seen, like traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. We’re reminded of their daily sacrifices on this, National PTSD Awareness Day.
“We know that too many of our veterans and their families are unfortunately all too familiar with the challenges and sorrows this condition can bring. We know too that while our warriors may return home from the battlefield due to effective MedEvac and trauma care, there’s a generation of warriors who will need treatment and support for decades to come.
“We owe this support to the servicemembers who drove Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and offered the Iraqis an opportunity for a better future. We owe it to each and every veteran who has sacrificed to help keep us safe.
“We have an all-volunteer force in this country. The young men and women who sign up to defend our nation don’t ask for a lot, but our nation certainly asks a lot of them. They deserve the benefits, care, and treatment they’ve earned.
“We need to pass the veterans and military construction funding before us, not play partisan politics.”
Related Issues: Senate Democrats, Appropriations, America's Military, Veterans, Zika Virus