Sen. Bill Nelson is calling on lawmakers to fully fund President Barack Obama’s request to fight Zika virus.
Nelson announced he planned to file legislation to provide the $1.9 billion the president has said is needed to fight the spread of the virus. The Florida senator took to the Senate floor on Thursday to make the announcement, saying he made the request after hearing “rumors that the appropriations committee is looking at a figure of $1.1 billion.”
“This is truly an emergency. I’m calling on our colleagues to approve the president’s $1.9 billion in emergency funding request now in the immediate future. Not later,” said Nelson in a floor speech. “The cost of this inaction would be far greater, and the consequences way too devastating. And we don’t want to have to say in the future, I told you so.”
Nelson said the Zika virus had infected 800 Americans in 40 states and territories. There have been 91 cases spread across 15 counties in Florida. Three of the most recent cases were in the Miami area.
The call to fully fund the president’s request comes just days after Obama signed legislation to add the Zika virus to the Food and Drug Administration’s Tropical Priority Review Voucher Program.
That bill, which was backed by Nelson, incentivizes drugmakers to accelerate their search for a cure. The legislation offers companies that develop a treatment a voucher to expedite the FDA approval process of any other drug the company chooses.