Healthcare

Rubio breaks with GOP, backs Obama Zika request

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Friday broke with other congressional Republicans and supported the White House’s request for $1.9 billion in new funding to fight the Zika virus. 

The backing of Rubio, who was endorsed by many leading congressional Republicans while running for president, could give a boost to the funding request, which has so far received an icy reception from Republicans on Capitol Hill. 

{mosads}Rubio said at a press conference in Miami that he would work to convince his Republican colleagues to support the funding request. 

“I want to ensure that I work with my fellow Republicans in both the House and Senate to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to get my colleagues to be supportive of it,” Rubio said. 

He noted that he wants to make sure the funding is spent wisely and does not become a “gravy train,” assurances that could help bring other Republicans on board. 

On Wednesday, the White House, saying it could not wait any longer for Congress to act, announced it was shifting about $500 million in Ebola funds to fight Zika. But the White House emphasized that funding is not enough, and upped the pressure for congressional Republicans to act. 

Rubio said he had asked the White House to shift those funds, and is now working on securing the additional new funding, noting that he spoke with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Thursday about how to target new money. 

While congressional Republicans have not completely ruled out new funding, they mainly said this week they were pleased that the White House had shifted over existing funds.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said last month that the administration already had “plenty of money” to fight Zika. 

The backing of Rubio, who was endorsed by many leading congressional Republicans while running for president, could give a boost to the funding request. 

Rubio’s home state of Florida is expected to be among the hardest-hit by the virus, which is projected to grow worse as the spring and summer continue. 

The funding request would go toward items like improved mosquito control and vaccine research. 

“I take no joy in suggesting that Republicans are going to look back on this time that they’ve had to act on the Zika virus and deeply regret it,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday in urging Congress to act. “It’s deeply regrettable right now that they aren’t taking the necessary steps to fight this disease.”

– Updated at 5:27 p.m.

Tags Marco Rubio Paul Ryan Sylvia Burwell
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