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Sen. Murray pushes House to approve $1.1B for Zika funding

Coral Garnick, Puget Sound Business Journal   ·   Link to Article

With mosquito season already starting in parts of the country, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray says emergency resources are critical for controlling mosquitos that carry the Zika virus, raising awareness, expanding access to family planning services and accelerating development of a vaccine.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the Zika virus that is spreading around the globe does cause babies to be born with unusually small heads— a condition known as microcephaly.

Murray was in Seattle Friday, with U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, to talk about the progress the Senate has made on providing emergency funding to ramp up prevention and treatment.

What started in February as a $1.9 billion funding plan, passed through the Senate Thursday at $1.1 billion. Murray and DelBene are urging House Republicans to quickly pass the plan.

"I was disappointed that Republicans spent so much time refusing to work with us on the president’s proposal and that they found reason after reason to delay instead of acting," Murray said during a speech at Harborview's clinic for women, infants and internal medicine. "While it shouldn’t have taken so long, I’m very glad that this week, the compromise bill that I wrote with Republicans broke through the gridlock."

DelBene says the House Republicans have a different plan, one that offers less than a third of the resources needed to combat the virus.

In addition to excluding funds for health care or family planning, it would be paid for by drawing more funds away from the ongoing Ebola response in a "patch-work" approach, DelBene said.

"The bill passed by House Republicans this week is nothing more than a shortsighted diversion of resources from one public emergency to another," she explained. "When you have multiple patients on life support, you don’t pull the plug on one just to save another."

Murray added that she is going to push back hard in "the other Washington" for House Republicans to drop their proposal, "treat this virus like the emergency it is and work with us to send a strong emergency funding package to the president."

Washington research centers, such as Seattle's Infections Disease Research Institute are preparing to investigate Zika vaccines. If the funding request is passed, a portion of it could go toward the National Institutes of Health to support preclinical and clinical development of vaccines for the virus, and could be awarded to research facilities in Washington.