Dems press Obama on plan for Zika

Getty Images

Senate Democrats are pushing President Obama to develop a plan to combat the Zika virus amid growing concern in Congress about a potential U.S. outbreak.

All 44 Democrats, as well as Independent Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine), sent a letter to Obama, saying the administration needs to come up with a "coordinated interagency response plan." 

ADVERTISEMENT
"There is a critical and urgent need for a robust and coordinated response at all levels of government, and it is necessary to enhance efforts to control outbreaks, counter the spread of the disease, and ultimately reduce the potential for outbreaks in the United States," they wrote in the letter, which was released Friday. 

The senators add that the administration's actions should include having agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), find gaps in current response efforts and make sure that the federal government is working with state and local agencies to "develop a cohesive national strategy" for tracking Zika cases in the United States. 

They are also asking that the administration take the Zika virus into account ahead of Obama releasing his fiscal 2017 budget request next week. 

The lawmakers argue that virus research and public outreach efforts could affect the level of funding needed for the U.S Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies. 

Friday's letter is the latest from lawmakers urging the administration to take additional steps to combat the virus and get ahead of a potential U.S. outbreak. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) discussed the issue with Obama during a recent White House visit, and HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is expected to brief senators next week.