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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Obama's Zika funding request divides Florida Senate candidates



Never mind that Florida's two U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, agree that Congress should fund President Barack Obama's request for $1.9 billion to combat the Zika virus. The candidates looking to replace Rubio aren't all so sure.

Both Democrats vying for Rubio's seat, Orlando Rep. Alan Grayson and Jupiter Rep. Patrick Murphy, have said they'd vote to authorize the emergency funds.

"We're in a situation, in regards to Zika, where no private entity, no business, has the necessary incentives to try to address the problem and prevent a public health disaster," Grayson told the Miami Herald in a telephone interview. "It's clear the government has to step in."

But among the five main Republican Senate contenders, the issue is more complicated. Florida has more confirmed Zika cases than any other state in the country.

Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores has said he's not against Obama's request but first wants to see how the nearly $600 million already approved to combat Zika get spent before signing off on the additional funding. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach told the Herald through a spokesman took a similar position: "If more funds are needed, the administration should come to Congress and demonstrate how the funds will be used," he said.

Orlando contractor Todd Wilcox offered a similar response. "I support the premise of ensuring the CDC has the funding to protect the public from disease transmission and pandemics," he said through a spokeswoman, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "But let's make sure current funding sources for such events have been exhausted before handing this administration billions more."

Carlos Beruff, a Sarasota home builder, denounced Congress for not tackling Zika sooner.

"Instead of taking action now to get something done and deal with the threat at hand, the Washington establishment is dragging its feet," Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline said. "Carlos would have to look at the specifics of a spending bill, but as long as Congress ensures that the money goes toward treating Zika and preventing the disease from spreading, he supports more federal funding for this issue."

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera did not respond to a question emailed to his campaign.

Tampa Bay Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary contributed.


[Last modified: Monday, April 18, 2016 4:16pm]


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