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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott heads to Congress to ask for Zika funding

Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to drop by Capitol Hill next week to push for emergency funds to combat the Zika virus.

Without asking for a specific amount of money, Scott will request that lawmakers treat the Zika threat like they would a hurricane: something to be prepared for in case of devastation. His trip is planned for May 11-12.

The first U.S. Zika death was confirmed last week, in Puerto Rico.

Scott met last week in Miami with Dr. Celeste Philip, the Florida health department's interim surgeon general. He has been vocal about asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more Zika testing kits, and he's declared a public health emergency over the virus. His office initially planned a D.C. trip for last Friday, a day before the governor attended the White House Correspondents Dinner, but it didn't work out.

President Obama has asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight the virus. Florida has more Zika cases than any other state; most of them are in Miami-Dade County. Scott's office won't say explicitly if he backs Obama's dollar figure.

Some Republicans question whether the Obama administration really needs that much money so urgently. Congress already approved $589 million for Zika efforts. A deal for $1.1 billion more is in the works in the Senate, though Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, has rejected that amount.

Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have backed Obama's request. Rubio spoke about the money on the Senate floor last week, calling for action "as quickly as possible." Nelson was in Miami on Tuesday, meeting with local officials "to get a firsthand report of what they’re seeing."

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2016 1:18pm]


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