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Mitch Perry Report for 5.10.16 -Rick Scott needs to address House GOP when it comes to unlocking Zika funds

Rick Scott takes his act to Washington on Wednesday, where the Florida governor hopes to rally members of Congress to approve President Obama‘s request for $1.9 billion to combat the spread of the Zika virus.

So what is the hold-up? The virus seems only to be getting greater penetration into the U.S.  On Monday, the Florida Department of Health announced two new travel-related cases of Zika in Florida. The new cases — found in Orange and Pinellas counties — bring the total number of cases in Florida to 107. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 470 cases in the continental U.S., all associated with travel to Zika-affected areas.

According to the Associated Press, Republicans from states at greatest risk, such as Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, have been reluctant to endorse Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to battle the virus. “GOP lawmakers said they haven’t heard from many constituents, though they said that could change.”

Not every Florida Republican feels that way.

“There’s a reason why the public has lost confidence in Washington — and this is the latest example,” Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan said last week. “Instead of working together to protect Americans, Washington has descended into another partisan fight, with both parties blaming each other for inaction on a growing and deadly health threat.”

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Among the reasons Republicans are balking is that the request for the $1.9 billion is “supplemental” funding — that is, an emergency request that goes outside of the regular process for appropriation bills, and generally not subject to budget caps. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said last month the administration could use some of the leftover money in existing accounts to combat Ebola to address immediate needs with Zika, saying, “there is enough money there, especially to deal with this year.”

The White House has already moved to redirect $589 million in existing funds to Zika, most of it from Ebola response programs. Funds were also taken from other emergency preparedness programs, which has state and local jurisdictions warning that they may be unable to address other non-Zika threats. But their request for $1.9 billion has gone nowhere in both the House and the Senate.

In other news …

Meet Joseph “JB” Benshimen, a new resident of Pinellas County, who is running as a Republican for the HD 68 seat.

Gene Siudut becomes the second candidate to file officially for the special District 7 Tampa City Council election later this year.

Kathleen Peters reported her fundraising total for April for her HD 69 reelection bid.

The Florida SEIU has endorsed Patrick Murphy in the U.S. Senate race.

And a host of advocacy groups, led by Equality Florida, is calling on the Marion County School Board to repeal its controversial bathroom bill regarding transgendered people.

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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