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Joe Henderson: The Zika crisis should be above party politics

Mosquitoes don’t ask for a person’s political party affiliation before they bite. So now that the bug-borne Zika virus is a certified health emergency you might think this is one time red and blue can come together.

(Insert laugh track HERE.)

It’s no laughing matter though. If a pregnant woman contracts Zika, her child could be born with microcephaly — a brain disorder that can cause lifelong problems with speech, motor skills, seizures and intellectual development.

Against that backdrop, Sunday’s appearance by Gov. Rick Scott on “Meet The Press” reminded everyone why Washington is an unholy mess. This time pregnant woman in Florida are the pawns in yet another ugly showdown that ignores the common good.

The emergency funding both Scott and President Barack Obama requested to fight Zika is hung up because some of the money might be earmarked for Planned Parenthood to help women with Zika-related pregnancy cases.

Or it might not be.

Senate Democrats say Republicans have balked at approving the money over that issue, but Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for re-election, told POLITICO over the weekend that’s not so.

“The words ‘Planned Parenthood’ don’t appear anywhere in the law,” he said.

“…The Planned Parenthood angle is something they basically made up to have a political reason not to pass Zika so they can come back in August and campaign on it,” he said. “That’s what I mean by political volleyball. Both sides have played that game.”

While Washington sees this issue as great fodder for campaign attack ads, the $1.1 billion funding request (trimmed from $1.9 billion Obama asked for) is stalled. The number of Zika cases keep increasing, and the unborn are at risk because the D.C. dunderheads put ideology and party first.

Republicans generally loathe Planned Parenthood because the organization, which receives about $500 million annually in federal taxpayer funding, gives women access to abortions.

Rubio doubled down on that by telling POLITICO pregnant women infected with Zika should not be allowed to have an abortion.

“I understand a lot of people disagree with my view — but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one,” he said.

Well, that’s an important issue and is worthy of debate, although the law of the land is clear abortion is legal. So Rubio’s opinion is just that — his opinion.

But what about Zika?

The mosquitoes keep coming and does Zika. As of Friday, there were 408 cases of the virus in Florida with more on likely on the way. So while Washington dithers, Scott noted in his appearance on “Meet The Press” that while the state has spent $26.2 million to combat the virus, this is an international health issue.

“We still need the federal government to show up,” Scott said.

(Insert second laugh track HERE.)

It’s an election year, and a public health crisis will always come in second.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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