Florida gov to take Zika funding pitch to Congress

Florida gov to take Zika funding pitch to Congress
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is headed back to D.C. next month amid an escalating battle with the federal government over its lack of response to the spread of the Zika virus in Florida.

Scott said Thursday that he will arrive at the Capitol on Sept. 6, the first day lawmakers return from their seven-week summer break.

For both parties, the biggest priority will be the looming deadline for the government spending bill — expected to contain at least some funding for Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects in the newborns of women who are pregnant when they contract the disease.

Scott is making his second highly publicized visit to Congress this year just as lawmakers settle back into their eight-month standoff over Zika-response funding. Since February, the GOP and Democrats have sparred over every part of a Zika funding package, including how large it should be, where the money should come from and where it should go.

Scott, who has pointed blame at both Congress and the White House, has stepped up his attacks over the last several weeks after Florida reported its first locally transmitted case.

Since Congress left town on July 14, Zika-carrying mosquitoes have infected at least 42 people in Florida.

The number of travel-related cases has also jumped dramatically nationwide: nearly 1,400 pregnant women alone have tested positive for Zika in the U.S. and its territories.

Scott said he will meet with several lawmakers — though he did not specify who — “to make sure they immediately get something done” on funding for Zika response. The governor’s office did not immediately respond when asked if Scott will meet with the GOP leadership in the House and Senate.  

“The health and safety of Florida’s families cannot be overshadowed by partisan politics,” Scott’s office wrote in a statement Thursday. “I work hand in hand with our Florida Legislature to do what is best for Florida’s families and we expect the president and Congress to do the same.”

This week, Scott has also escalated his criticism of the Obama administration, specifically the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Scott has repeatedly told local health officials, as well as local reporters, that the CDC has ignored requests for supplies, including Zika-testing kits and additional lab support.

He also said the White House has failed to respond to his request about how to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Congress and the White House have not been good partners,” Scott said on a conference call with officials from Palm Beach County on Wednesday.

The CDC, however, released a statement on Thursday to counter his criticism and to clarify that the agency has already spent $35 million in Florida alone.

The agency also agreed to send another shipment of Zika tests “after learning this week” that the state had a shortage.

“CDC has and will continue to provide support to Florida to address the Zika outbreak,” the agency wrote in a statement.