With the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing there are four confirmed cases of mosquitos infecting people with the virus in Florida, Zika is becoming something of an issue in the U.S. Senate race.
A month until the Republican primary, Sen. Marco Rubio called for more federal action to combat Zika.
"The news is disturbing, but no one should be surprised,” Rubio said on Friday. “I’ve been warning Congress for months that we would eventually have locally transmitted cases of Zika virus in the United States, and sadly that has now become a reality. We need to prepare ourselves for more locally transmitted cases to emerge in the weeks ahead. All of us must redouble our efforts to protect our families from mosquitoes and, wherever possible, to prevent water from pooling where mosquitos might breed.
“We are entering a critical phase of this crisis,” Rubio added. “Local mosquito transmissions and increased travel to the U.S. from Zika-affected regions are a dangerous combination that could lead to an explosive increase in infections. We must act quickly to prevent the problem from reaching a tipping point in the mainland U.S. as it already has in Puerto Rico.
"I urge the Obama Administration to use all the tools at its disposal to reprogram existing public health emergency funding in the short term to deal with Zika,” Rubio continued. “As I have said time and time again, both parties in Congress need to get it together and approve funding to combat the Zika virus."
Earlier in the week, Rubio urged President Barack Obama to ensure almost $385 million set aside to combat the funds are spent. Rubio supports Obama’s call for Congress to allocate almost $2 billion to fight Zika.
“Whether it was the Administration’s $1.9 billion request, bipartisan Senate proposals or the House-Senate compromise, I have supported every single congressional effort to deal with Zika. It is unfortunate that Congress has failed to pass any kind of legislation this summer to deal with the Zika virus,” Rubio wrote in a letter sent to Obama on Wednesday. “However, it is also deeply concerning that, according to figures provided by the Office of Management and Budget, most of the money reprogrammed by the Administration for the fight against Zika remains unspent. Recent reports have indicated that as much as $384 million remains unobligated.
“After multiple discussions with representatives from state health departments, local health departments, county government officials, infectious disease experts, and health officers from Puerto Rico, I understand the need to address this public health threat immediately and head on,” Rubio continued.
But that’s not enough for some groups on the left. Liberal group American Bridge slammed Rubio on Friday, insisting he was ineffective.
“Marco Rubio still can't seem to influence Republican obstructionism on Zika funding,” American Bridge emailed the media on Friday. “Sure, Rubio sent a letter calling for currently available funds to be spent more quickly, but that's just posturing. Rubio has talked a big game on Zika funding since at least April, but he's yet to get any results. Instead, Florida's now has 383 Zika cases on the books -- including 55 cases involving pregnant women. Florida voters deserve better than an absentee senator who's made a career of hardline partisanship but remains so ineffective that he can't even convince his fellow ‘Party of Trump’ obstructionists to address a looming public health crisis. Ignoring Rubio, Speaker Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans have instead cynically purposed their already-underfunded Zika measure as an attack on women's healthcare. It's no wonder that Rubio's presidential campaign surrogates struggled to name any accomplishments he's had since 2010. Rubio talks a big game but can't seem to get anything done. With good reason: it's hard to get be effective when you don't show up for work.”
Rubio also drew fire from the right as businessman Carlos Beruff hopes to catch him in the Republican primary. Beruff’s team hit Rubio on Friday for not doing enough to combat Zika.
“While Marco Rubio was running for president, he was nowhere to be found on issues that are important to Floridians,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Beruff. “His election-year epiphany won't distract from his absentee record and his failure to get the necessary funding to combat Zika. The voters of Florida deserve a senator who consistently champions Florida issues, not just when it helps him continue to climb the political ladder.”