Rubio: Give Obama $1.9 billion to fight Zika virus
© Haiyun Jiang

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden MORE is pushing lawmakers to meet President Obama's request for $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus as they prepare to merge competing proposals. 

The Florida Republican and former presidential candidate sent a letter to 33 lawmakers who will be part of the House-Senate conference committee arguing that "time is of the essence." 
 
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"I ask you to consider fully funding the fight against the Zika virus," Rubio wrote. "Florida, along with Puerto Rico, are expected to be the hardest hit by detrimental impacts of the Zika virus, and it is imperative that Floridians, Puerto Ricans and all Americans are protected by all available resources and courses of action." 
 
Lawmakers will use the conference to hash out a deal on the funding. Senate Democrats are pledging they won't support less than $1.1 billion, while House Republicans have balked at that unfunded figure.
 
The Senate approved $1.1 billion in unpaid-for funding to combat the virus as part of wide-ranging appropriations bill. Meanwhile, the House passed $622 million, using money that had been previoulsy authorized for the Ebola virus. 
 
Rubio's letter comes after the Senate voted to go to conference on the larger spending bill — which includes the Zika funding — Wednesday evening. They blocked a push by Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon MORE (D-Fla.) to instruct senators to reject any proposal that uses Ebola money to cover the Zika spending. 
 
Noting that the administration requested $1.9 billion, the Florida senator asks conferees to "consider these specific requests as you negotiate the final legislation through this conference as quickly as possible."
 
"I am available at your convenience to answer any questions related to the Zika outlook for Florida and Puerto Rico," he added. 
 
Rubio and Nelson previously tried to include $1.9 billion in the Senate's appropriations bill, but their amendment was rejected.