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Mitch McConnell: Time to Act on Bill That Provides Critical Funding

Measure will aid victims of Zika and flooding and help fight drug epidemics

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, at a news conference in the Capitol after the Senate Policy luncheons on Tuesday, Sept. 13. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, at a news conference in the Capitol after the Senate Policy luncheons on Tuesday, Sept. 13. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Next week the Senate will vote on legislation — the so-called continuing resolution or CR — that will address Zika, veterans programs, severe flooding, the heroin and prescription opioid crisis, and fund the operations of the government through December. After many weeks of bipartisan negotiations, there is some understandable confusion over just what is and is not in that bill. I’m happy to clear it up.

First, this is what’s known as a “clean” CR.

It’s a clean bill because of what it doesn’t have: controversial policy riders from either party. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

It’s a good bill because of what it does have. It contains funding for all current government operations at agreed-upon, bipartisan spending levels and under the terms and conditions President Obama signed into law last December and that more than 30 Senate Democrats supported.

It contains funding for the new laws President Obama just signed, like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that will allow us to fight the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.

It contains a significant down payment on flood relief for the many states like Maryland, Texas, West Virginia, and Louisiana that have recently been impacted by severe flooding. It also contains record levels of funding for our veterans.

Both parties and, more importantly, our constituents have called for all of these provisions and we’ve included them, as well as the funding we need to fight Zika. This bill contains the resources necessary to get the mosquito population under control, bring advanced diagnostics and treatments online, and develop vaccines to finally ensure expectant mothers and their babies are safe.

It was unfortunate to see Democrats block this essential anti-Zika funding several times over the summer, but the concerns they raised then have been addressed in this bill in a bipartisan way. Now, with thousands infected by Zika already, there is no time to lose and zero reason to stall this essential relief again. Democrats like Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida understand that urgency and support this common sense package.

“This bill provides a clean $1.1 billion to help stop the spread of Zika virus with no political riders,” Sen. Nelson said, “and I will support it.”

Sen. Nelson, a Democrat, and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, have both seen first-hand the devastating toll Zika has already taken in their home state and across our country.

We’ve all seen the devastating toll that severe flooding and the heroin and prescription opioid crisis have taken from coast to coast to coast.

Think how unfair it would be for senators to block this bill’s critical funding for the victims of Zika, the prescription opioid and heroin crisis, and severe flooding after senators voted 95-3 just last week to help the people of Flint, Michigan.

This bill is the result of weeks of bipartisan negotiations, it addresses priorities of both parties, it contains zero controversial policy riders, it adheres to already agreed-upon, bipartisan spending levels, and — with government funding set to run out on Sept. 30 unless we pass it — the time for action is now.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is the majority leader of the United States Senate.