Zika is becoming a hot issue in a South Florida congressional race which is expected to be one of the most competitive in the nation come November.
On Tuesday, freshman Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo urged the Senate to pass a bill with more federal funds to battle Zika while saying President Barack Obama should immediately disperse $385 million to fight the virus.
“For months I have called upon Congress to provide adequate funding to respond to the Zika virus,” Curbelo said on Tuesday. “The 14 cases of locally transmitted Zika in the state of Florida—the first reported cases in the country—are a cause for alarm. The House has acted by adopting the Conference Report to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which includes $1.1 billion to be used for Zika eradication efforts. However, the Senate has refused to consider this legislation. It’s time for the Senate to put politics aside and do what’s best for American families by adopting the conference report. The Administration has at its disposal $385 million dollars which can be used towards the Zika emergency, but has yet to release these funds. Like the Senate, the Administration should keep politics out of this issue and employ these funds to support efforts in our community to contain and eliminate the threat this represents to public health and the economy. Zika is a dangerous disease, and as legislators, we must do everything in our power to protect Americans."
In the meantime former Congressman Joe Garcia, who Curbelo beat in 2014, teamed up with Congressman Filemon Vela on Wednesday sending a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, urging the House to support Obama’s call for $1.9 billion to fight Zika.
“Americans look to Congress for leadership in times of crisis and they deserve action on Zika now,” Garcia said on Wednesday. “Americans are angry at Congress because they would rather lob insults than take action on issues that matter. For once, we need to put politics aside and equip our federal and state agencies with the necessary tools to combat this public health emergency.
“Rep. Vela has been a strong and independent leader for his community and I am happy to work with him to move this issue,” Garcia added.
Garcia faces Democratic activist Annette Taddeo in the primary later this month. On Tuesday night, the Taddeo campaign went after the “failed leadership of our GOP-led do-nothing Congress” on Zika in an email.
“Homegrown Zika has hit our Florida community but our representatives have left us helpless against the health and economic devastation of this epidemic,” the Taddeo campaign insisted. “By failing to allocate any spending to help combat Zika, our women and children are left vulnerable and our local small business are left struggling to survive as our tourism industry suffers.”
Garcia and Taddeo meet in the primary at the end of this month.