With more than 110 cases of Zika already reported in the Sunshine State, Florida’s two senators have teamed up to fund President Barack Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to fight that virus, almost twice the amount Congress is willing to provide.
Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson joined forces last week, announcing they would attach the funding as part of an amendment to a military spending bill. Members of both parties in Congress are calling for $1.1 billion to fight Zika.
"The administration has been clear from the start: it's going to take $1.9 billion to stop the spread of this virus, not $1.1 [billion]," Nelson said on Thursday as he and Rubio announced their proposal.
“I've said repeatedly that Congress should not allow politics to delay action on Zika, and I'm hopeful we'll begin to see some meaningful action on this public health emergency very soon,” Rubio said. “There's no reason every proposal to address Zika cannot be bipartisan and earn broad support, and I'm hopeful we can reach a final outcome that fully addresses the problem. As I said yesterday, no one wants the Zika issue to become a full-blown crisis that leaves us scrambling to respond. Let's deal with this now and protect our people, including the American citizens in Puerto Rico who have been most impacted so far. The strain on Puerto Rico's health system from Zika must be addressed, as this proposal does."
The Senate leadership now holds the fate of both spending proposals. At a media event on Monday in Orlando, Rubio sounded an optimistic note.
“On the Zika issue, I hope we’ll have good news before the end of this week,” Rubio said. “The Senate is scheduled to vote on numerous amendments to provide funding to deal with Zika.
“One of the amendments is sponsored by myself and Senator Nelson for the full $1.9 billion,” Rubio added. “There [are] two other amendments that fund it a little less. Obviously, I prefer the $1.9 billion. I hope we’ll do something.
“We’re getting into the summer months, which [are] the months where you’ll see the mosquito season really kick off,” Rubio continued. “We also happen to be Florida, a place where people travel from all over the world. Particularly here in Central Florida, they’ll come from Brazil after the Olympics, they’ll come from everywhere. And not to mention that Puerto Rico is now facing a severe outbreak of Zika, and that too… You know the links between Central Florida and Puerto Rico. So these issues need to be dealt with.
“And also there’s no silver bullet,” Rubio insisted. “There’s a multifaceted approach to both of these and so it’s great to have talked to the mayor about some of these things to ensure as I go back to Washington today that we’re doing all we can on both of them.”