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Congress must act immediately on Zika funding bill

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As many across the nation are now aware, the Zika virus is now being locally-transmitted by mosquitoes for the first time in the continental United States, occurring in South Florida, just a stone’s throw north of my Congressional district. This is a serious development and we all – Congress, the Obama Administration, and relevant federal agencies – must respond to this threat quickly and effectively to support our fellow citizens in Florida and across the United States. 

For months, I have been sounding the alarm about the eventuality of local transmission of Zika virus and have repeatedly demanded the release of all necessary resources from the federal government to prepare our states, and especially our local communities, to deal with the arrival of the Zika virus and its aftermath. Yet, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is political gamesmanship in the height of election season, Republicans and Democrats in Washington have failed the fundamental task of keeping the American people safe. It doesn’t have to be this way.

{mosads}Health and Human Service Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has noted that current Zika response funds will run out by the end of this September. Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden said the same to me during his recent visit to Miami. The federal government has one last chance to get the domestic response to Zika right. That’s why I have sent letters to President Obama and Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell requesting that they work together to stop this crisis in its tracks now.

In my letter to President Obama, I ask him to “work with Congressional leadership to quickly reprogram as much additional funding as possible to domestic Zika response.” Meanwhile, in my letter to Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, I urge them to “immediately reconvene the House and Senate at once to pass a robust, stand-alone Zika funding bill.”

My home state of Florida, and the residents of South Florida, in particular, can no longer afford to wait on behalf of political posturing by either party. I urge my Congressional colleagues to recognize the seriousness of the situation in South Florida, and the heightened threat the virus now represents to their own communities. I am ready and willing to return to Washington immediately to fulfill my responsibility to my constituents and the nation. Congress must pass a Zika funding bill that fulfills the President’s $1.9 billion request and provides a critical infusion of much-needed resources to impacted states and communities.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen represents Florida’s 27th District in Congress. 

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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