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Patrick Murphy and David Jolly ask Congressional leaders to pass Zika funding bill now

After an eight-week break, Congress has returned to Washington this week, and the matter mostly on the minds of Florida’s delegation is to somehow finding a way to break the logjam regarding funding for the Zika virus.

On Wednesday, Jupiter Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy and Pinellas County Republican Congressman David Jolly penned a letter to the leaders in the House and Senate — Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid — calling on them to take immediate action to pass emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

“Seven months have passed since the administration submitted its $1.9 billion request for Zika response efforts, and nearly four months since initial legislative action in the House. Emergency funding is needed now for vital vaccine research and diagnostic development, mosquito surveillance and control efforts, and education initiatives to warn of the serious risk the virus poses, particularly for fetal development in pregnant women,” the authors wrote in the letter, which also was signed by Democrats Kathy Castor, Gwen Graham, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch as well as Republicans Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo, and Dennis Ross.  

“With federal funding for Zika response set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, Congress’ continued failure to act will halt federally funded vaccine research, mosquito control, testing, and surveillance.”

The inability of Congress to come up with funding plan that pleases both sides of the aisle is clearly becoming a problem here in Florida. Eight days ago, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that federal funds to fight the Zika virus were nearly exhausted, and that if Congress did not replenish them soon, there would be no money to fight a new outbreak. Frieden said that the CDC had spent $194 million of the $222 million it was allocated to fight the virus.

“As Floridians we are proud of our beautiful tropical community, but Zika has the potential to pose a public health crisis that could threaten our tourism industry and impact the well-being of our friends, families and neighbors,” said Jolly. “It is time to pass a comprehensive bipartisan funding package that will give health officials what they need to protect Floridians and others from the spread of Zika before this threat becomes a crisis.”

“It is clear to us in Florida that Zika is not a partisan issue — it’s about protecting our families and our children,” Murphy said in a statement. “As the number of Zika cases across the nation continues to grow, including more than 50 local transmissions in Florida alone, this prolonged inaction is unacceptable. We hope Congress will come together to take immediate action on a clean funding bill to provide the critical resources needed for this fight.”

But it certainly seemed partisan when it comes to Murphy arguing with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio about Zika funding. On Tuesday, the two U.S. Senate candidates feuded about who was more culpable for the fact that a legislation package hasn’t been funded. Murphy said Rubio should be working harder to convince his party’s leadership to put reasonable legislation before lawmakers. Rubio says Murphy should have voted for previous bills that included Zika funding.

Here’s the letter in full:

September 8, 2016

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, Leader McConnell, and Leader Reid:

As Members of the Florida delegation, it is our hope that Congress take immediate action to pass emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

Seven months have passed since the Administration submitted its $1.9 billion request for Zika response efforts, and nearly four months since initial legislative action in the House.  Emergency funding is needed now for vital vaccine research and diagnostic development, mosquito surveillance and control efforts, and education initiatives to warn of the serious risk the virus poses, particularly for fetal development in pregnant women.

In that time, the virus has taken hold in the continental United States, hitting our home state of Florida especially hard.  To date, more than 16,000 Americans have been infected with the Zika virus, of which more than 1,600 are pregnant women.   The spread of this disease has now resulted in 17 babies being born in the U.S. with Zika-related birth defects.

With federal funding for Zika response set to expire at the end of the Fiscal Year, Congress’ continued failure to act will halt federally funded vaccine research, mosquito control, testing, and surveillance.

Our most fundamental responsibility is protecting the health and safety of Americans.  Please present a clean funding package to fight the Zika virus as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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