When Republicans left town this summer, they abandoned a billion-dollar Zika rescue package that had become mired in partisan infighting. But now some rank-and-file Florida Republicans — who represent scared constituents clamoring for Washington to do something — are pressuring their leaders to get a deal done, no matter what it takes.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen asked Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to convene an emergency session of Congress to pass a Zika bill immediately. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is worrying that Congress’ lack of action could cripple him in an already tough reelection battle. And a number of Florida Republicans, including Rep. Dennis Ross, want their party to fully fund President Barack Obama’s larger $1.9 billion Zika request.
Story Continued Below
Since Congress split town in mid-July, the mosquito-borne virus situation has worsened: The first locally transmitted cases in Florida appeared at the end of July, with infections there now totaling more than 400 cases (though most were transmitted by people who had traveled abroad). On Thursday, Florida newspapers reported that parts of Miami Beach had been infected. And on Aug. 12, the White House declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico, projecting that 25 percent of residents will likely contract Zika this year — all just a few miles from Florida’s sandy coasts.
“I don’t care how it gets passed, it just needs to get passed,” Curbelo said in a phone interview Wednesday. “There is so much anger and frustration in our country, because most Americans feel they cannot count on the government to do very simple things. … Congress has to show competence — and funding a response to a serious public health threat seems to me a very simple stand for ‘competence.'”
The speaker’s office has tried to redirect the blame, pointing a finger at Senate Democrats who blocked a …