U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how members of Congress can work together to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus by funding necessary programs and speeding up mosquito eradication efforts before the threat escalates any further. He also discussed his recently introduced legislation to provide immediate regulatory relief to expedite efforts to combat the Zika virus. Thune’s bill would waive certain permitting and reporting requirements of the Clean Water Act for six months to allow state and local authorities to protect the public health more quickly and efficiently during the North American mosquito season.
Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to discuss Congress’ efforts to combat the Zika virus.
“Combating Zika is a public health priority, and it’s important that this not be turned into a political issue.
“The administration and Congress need to work together to combat the virus by funding necessary programs like mosquito eradication efforts before the threat escalates further.
“Congress has already acted to provide incentives for manufacturers to develop new medicines to prevent or treat Zika.
“We’ve also approved the use of nearly $600 million to initiate a Zika response effort, including research into vaccines and treatments and improved mosquito control.
“Because the best way to deal with any illness is to stop people from getting sick in the first place, we need to make controlling mosquitoes a priority.
“I introduced a measure to remove burdensome permitting restrictions on mosquito control efforts so that we can immediately free up additional resources to keep the mosquito population in check.
“A vaccine to prevent the Zika virus is unlikely to be available until next year at the earliest, which means that our primary weapon in combating Zika right now is controlling mosquitoes so that people don’t get infected.
“For that reason, Mr. President, we need to prioritize mosquito control programs and provide immediate regulatory relief.
“Aggressive mosquito abatement is the most timely step we can take to keep women and children safe, and I’m pleased that my approach was included in the Cornyn amendment the Senate considered yesterday.
“I am hopeful that we can still work with both sides of the aisle to get timely regulatory relief for all impacted industries in the final Zika response package.”