For months, even before he decided to seek re-election, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has sounded the alarm on Zika.
Now there’s an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in Rubio’s hometown of Miami. And while Rubio is still holding news conferences about the public-health threat, his political party’s presidential nominee has remained mum.
“Hopefully that will change today, and the campaign will communicate and say something,” Rubio told reporters outside his Doral office Wednesday, sending a clear signal to Donald Trump’s campaign to speak up.
Trump campaigned later Wednesday in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, has talked about Zika and the importance of funding prevention efforts. On Tuesday in Daytona, her running mate, Tim Kaine, accused Trump of ignoring the virus.
“It’s like, crickets,” he said.
Why won’t Trump talk about Zika?
“You’ll have to ask the Trump campaign,” Rubio said. “I’m not a spokesperson for their campaign.”
In Daytona, Trump made no Zika mention — though he did give Rubio a re-election shout-out.
Trump told a West Palm Beach CBS affiliate that Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump backer, is “doing a fantastic job” handling “the Zika.”
“He’s going to have it under control,” Trump said.
Asked if Congress should take special action to deal with the outbreak, Trump deferred to Scott -- even though the Zika funding question was at the federal, not state, level.
“I endorsed Marco Rubio. He endorsed me,” Trump said. “Go for Marco!”
Rubio, for his part, got increasingly irritated about getting asked about Trump — something Rubio and his aides knew would be inevitable after he settled on running again.
Rubio continues to back Trump for president, even after Trump’s recent controversial remarks about an American Muslim soldier who died in Iraq in 2004 — and after Trump seemed to be unaware that Russia invaded Crimea two years ago. Rubio had campaigned for the Republican nomination showing off his foreign-policy chops.
Rubio urged reporters Wednesday to “go online” to read his reactions to Trump’s every move, and pointed to his last primary debate, where he said he recognized the sacrifice Muslim soldiers made in sacrificing for the U.S. military.
“I’m here to talk about Zika,” he told reporters. “I know you want to talk about politics.”
Moments earlier, Rubio had accused President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats of politicizing Zika funding. Obama should spend $175 million-$300 million already authorized to combat Ebola on Zika instead, Rubio argued, and House Democrats should sign off on a compromise, $1.1 billion bill even if it’s got other provisions unrelated to Zika.
Democrats opposed such legislation because it would have cut funding for a Planned Parenthood chapter in Puerto Rico and defunded portions of the Affordable Care Act. (The Senate blocked an additional provision pushed by House Republicans’ to undo a ban on flying Confederate flags in military cemeteries.)
Rubio wants the GOP-controlled Congress to convene in emergency session to pass a Zika bill — preferably one “clean” of other provisions — or use a procedural maneuver to approve the funding.
Late Tuesday, Sen. Bill Nelson, Rubio’s Democratic counterpart, had harsh words for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
“Wait until a mosquito bites one of the people who is traveling to Kentucky and then he gets a transmitted case in Kentucky,” Nelson said. “Then we’ll get action.”
Rubio’s primary rival, Carlos Beruff, said in a statement Wednesday timed with the start of Rubio’s news conference that the senator hasn’t done enough to secure funding. Beruff has been trying to make the case that Rubio has not focused enough on the job he was elected to do.
Rubio, who backed Obama’s original request for $1.9 billion in Zika funding, reiterated that both parties are to blame for inaction he called “inexcusable.” The senator warned of Zika’s potential economic impact on Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood — where local transmission of the virus has been confirmed — and elsewhere in the state — such as Orlando’s theme parks — once Zika spreads there.
“This mosquito,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, who faced reporters with Rubio, “is not a registered voter in any of the parties.”
An earlier version of this report erroneously stated that the compromise Zika bill included lifting the Confederate-flag ban at military cemeteries.
Herald/Times staff writer Jeremy Wallace contributed to this report from Tallahassee.