Politics

Florida Gov. Rick Scott heads to Congress to ask for Zika funds

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media after a Republican National Committee gathering at Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood in April.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media after a Republican National Committee gathering at Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood in April. SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL VIA AP

Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to drop by Capitol Hill next week to push for emergency funds to combat the Zika virus.

Without asking for a specific amount of money, Scott will request that lawmakers treat the Zika threat like they would a hurricane: something to be prepared for in case of devastation. His trip is planned for May 11-12.

“Florida has now had more than 100 documented cases of the Zika virus,” Scott said in a statement. “We are now headed into summer, when heat and rainfall cause our mosquito population to grow. Simultaneously, the Olympic games in Brazil will heavily increase travel to a country where the Zika virus is spreading rapidly.

“We don’t yet know for certain what will happen with this virus, but we owe our citizens a vigorous and thorough preparation effort at the federal level to best protect their health.”

We owe our citizens a vigorous and thorough preparation effort at the federal level to best protect their health.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

The first U.S. Zika death was confirmed last week, in Puerto Rico.

Scott met last week in Miami with Dr. Celeste Philip, the Florida health department’s interim surgeon general. He has been vocal about asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more Zika testing kits, and he’s declared a public health emergency over the virus.

His office initially planned a D.C. trip for last Friday, a day before the governor attended the White House Correspondents Dinner, but it didn’t work out.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight the virus. Scott’s office won't say explicitly if he backs Obama’s dollar figure. Florida has more confirmed Zika cases than any other state — 102 — with Miami-Dade County leading the way with at least 40.

Some national Republicans question whether the Obama administration really needs that much money so urgently. Congress already approved $589 million for Zika efforts. A deal for $1.1 billion more is in the works in the Senate, though Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, has rejected that amount.

The funding question has fostered rare agreement among Florida Republicans and Democrats. The state’s two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have backed Obama’s request.

Rubio spoke about the money on the Senate floor last week, calling for action “as quickly as possible.” Nelson was in Miami on Tuesday, meeting with local officials “to get a firsthand report of what they’re seeing.”

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