A loyal TFS reader who is a constituent of Congressman Gus Bilirakis sent us the response he got when inquiring about Zika funding. This is the standard Republican line for not dealing with the issue head-on as a crisis begins to develop here in the state of Florida.
Thank you for contacting me to share your concerns about the Zika virus. I appreciate hearing from you. The Zika virus is an emerging public health threat linked to a rise in babies born with microcephaly, a very serious condition characterized by a small head and brain damage. Recent studies state that the Zika virus has the potential to spread across warmer and wetter parts of the Western hemisphere as mosquitoes pick up the virus from those who have traveled to affected areas, and spread it to other people.
To help identify and combat the virus, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for briefings on the Zika virus. The Committee anticipates holding a hearing in the coming weeks to get additional answers from these agencies. Additionally, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on March 2, entitled: “Examining the U.S. Public Health Response to the Zika Virus.” At this hearing, I questioned leading health officials on their efforts to stop the spread of this disease and protect Americans. I also sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration requesting them to use their authority to provide a priority review voucher for the Zika virus. This would create an incentive for drug development for the Zika virus. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, you can be sure that I will continue to participate in these hearings and find ways to address the Zika virus in our nation.
Zika funding was included in the conference agreement for H.R. 2577, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017. H.R. 2577 authorizes $1.11 billion to federal agencies to combat and respond to the Zika virus. This conference agreement was reached by House and Senate appropriators working through differences between the House and Senate passed versions of the appropriations bill. The Conference Report was passed by the House, with my strong support, on June 23, 2016. This Conference Report is currently awaiting final passage in the Senate. I urge you to contact Florida’s United States Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, to express your support for this legislation. As a resident of Florida’s Twelfth District, your comments and opinions are an important source of information to help me carry out my duties as your federal representative.
In that regard, please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on any issue important to you. Also, if you would like to be informed more frequently about my work in Congress and in Florida’s Twelfth Congressional District, please visit my website at http://www.bilirakis.house. gov to sign up for regular email or to send me a message.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.
Gus M. Bilirakis Member of Congress