Could the Zika virus determine who controls the House next year? Republicans representing Florida in Congress have grown anxious with Speaker of the House, Wisconsin Republican, Paul Ryan for playing politics with the deadly virus.
In an angry letter to Ryan (view PDF here), Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote:
“I have been demanding an effective response from our federal government for months to ensure that we contain and eliminate this public health crisis. Yet, the most critical role for Congress to play in the federal government’s response—appropriating an adequate and reliable stream of funding to support impacted states and local communities—has been caught up in protracted political battles.”
While nationally, Republicans balked at President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to fight the disease, most Florida Republicans have supported the budget item, especially those in South Florida, where Zika has been reported at high levels.
The Center for Disease Control has issued an advisory recommending pregnant women not travel to the Miami area, and new reports come almost daily of new, non-travel-related cases in the state.
At least one Florida Republican told Politico that local incumbents may be “doomed” if Zika becomes an election issue this November.
Indeed, Ros-Lehtinen’s Democratic opponent, Scott Fuhrman has been tweeting on the issue regularly.
Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan, co-chairman of the Florida Congressional Delegation, has been urging action on Zika for months. His district just saw its first Zika case this week. He called it a “national disgrace” when Congress went into recess in July without taking any action, though he tried to ensure the White House at least shared blame for the matter.
“The health of thousands of lives are now at stake because Congress and the president could not overcome their political differences.”
Neither Buchanan nor Ros-Lehtinen appear to be at risk of losing re-election now, though both have Democratic opposition. Meanwhile, GOP congressmen like freshman Republican Carlos Curbelo represent closely divided districts. Curbelo will either face Democrat Joe Garcia, the incumbent he ousted two years ago, or Annette Taddeo, the Democrat’s candidate for Lietuenant Governor in 2014.
— Rep. Carlos Curbelo (@RepCurbelo) August 19, 2016
Curbelo’s Twitter feed shows concern over Zika. And both Taddeo and Garcia have been hitting the incumbent on the issue. Garcia supports a discharge petition forcing a floor vote. Taddeo has called on the Appropriations committee to take the issue up with or without Ryan.
“Our community is counting on us.”