Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Zika funding becomes political weapon in Florida's U.S. Senate race

For the third time in three months, Congress — as expected — refused to commit a promised $1.1 billion in emergency funding to fight the growing public health crisis of Zika.

Now, that paralysis is threatening to overtake Florida's U.S. Senate race, with both Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger, Rep. Patrick Murphy, blaming the other for the impasse.

In Zika politics, where live mosquitoes can make a great prop, there are more points to be scored by blaming each other for failure than actually passing what should be an easy bill, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

"It's all so they can blame the other side for not doing the job," Sabato said.

Hours before the Senate failed to approve the funding Tuesday, Rubio's campaign slammed Murphy — who has been in the House since 2012 — because he voted against the same bill three months ago.

"Patrick Murphy is the only candidate to have voted against every measure to fund Zika — once again putting himself and his political aspirations before Floridians," said Olivia Perez-Cubas, a spokeswoman for Rubio's campaign.

Left out of the attack is that Democrats objected to the Republican-crafted Zika bill because it cut money to Planned Parenthood — a provision both sides knew would doom the Senate legislation because Democrats have enough votes to block bills.

Moments after the bill failed in the Senate, Murphy released his own comment blasting Rubio for trying to exploit the Zika crisis and not doing more to push Republican leaders to strip the Planned Parenthood language out of the legislation.

"Even more egregious is that as Zika spreads in Florida, Marco Rubio continues to stand with Republican leaders instead of Floridians facing this crisis," Murphy said.

That attack left out that Rubio supported a Zika funding bill earlier this year with Florida's Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, that would have set aside $1.9 billion of emergency spending without the Planned Parenthood cuts. Rubio backed another version that would have put $1.1 billion toward Zika without the other provisions.

Nelson on Tuesday refused to blame Rubio for the Zika funding problems, undercutting Murphy's message.

"Remember, (Rubio) voted for the $1.9 billion, he was my co-sponsor, and he voted for the $1.1 billion with no riders," Nelson told reporters. "The person that hasn't delivered a Zika funding bill is Mitch McConnell."

He said the Senator majority leader should pressure the House Republicans to drop their insistence on the unrelated measures in the Zika emergency legislation.

"Let's stop this monkey business," Nelson said in a speech on the Senate floor. "Let's stop these political games."

Other Floridians in Congress are similarly frustrated.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Belleair Bluffs, in a piece of inspired political stagecraft, carried a clear container holding 100 Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to the House floor Wednesday and questioned what the reaction would be if he released them in the chamber.

"This is the fear of Floridians, right here," Jolly said. "The politics of Zika are garbage."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, spoke minutes before him and decried political "paralysis." She called for a vote on the original $1.9 billion spending package without policy riders.

Those riders are at the heart of the stalemate. Nelson told reporters that he voted against Tuesday's Zika bill because it included the cuts to Planned Parenthood and another would allow Confederate flags to be displayed at federal cemeteries.

While most Americans would seemingly want to see a Zika bill pass, Sabato said party leaders see an opportunity to fire up core activists by injecting abortion politics into the debate. He said in an election year, party leaders are scratching to find issues to help turn out voters, and, as usual, abortion accomplishes that.

Times Washington bureau chief Alex Leary contributed to this report.

     
Comments
Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

CLEARWATER —The city’s proposed $79.7 million overhaul of the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facilities depends on getting $40 million in bed taxes from Pinellas County.But records show even if county officials wanted to bankroll the Phillies...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Hillsborough commissioners approve referendum on making county officers non-partisan

Hillsborough commissioners approve referendum on making county officers non-partisan

TAMPA — The debate over whether "Rep" or "Dem" should be on the ballot alongside the name of candidates for sheriff or property appraiser is now in the hands of Hillsborough County voters.Hillsborough County commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to hold ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

TAMPA — Mortar & Pestle, a fledgling Seminole Heights eatery with a mom-and-pop pharmacy theme, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Seacoast Bank was listed as the creditor with the largest unsecured claim: $1.4 million.The restaurant...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Column: It’s time for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to process concealed weapons licenses

It is hard to believe that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs didn’t discover for a year that an employee could not log into an account needed to see results of background checks that examined, among other things, whether applicants f...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Column: I survived a suicide attempt and here’s what you should know

Column: I survived a suicide attempt and here’s what you should know

Twenty-five years ago, I was a reporter at WTSP-TV, out in the field covering Tampa Bay’s Independence Day celebrations. I expected an easy assignment talking about families and fireworks. Then the newsroom called with an urgent message: I needed to ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

TAMPA — The contractors arriving at the Brandon home thought they were meeting with a potential customer. They were wrong.In fact, the would-be clients were undercover detectives and the contractors, lacking a license to ply their trade, left the hom...
Updated: 4 hours ago
As Border Patrol searches its buses, Greyhound is pulled into immigration uproar

As Border Patrol searches its buses, Greyhound is pulled into immigration uproar

He was a 12-year Miami resident originally from Trinidad, taken off a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by U.S. Border Patrol agents in January.She was a 60-something Jamaican national who had just met her granddaughter for the first time, w...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

NEW YORK — Phil Mickelson has apologized four days after intentionally violating golf rules by hitting a moving ball on the green at the U.S. Open, saying his frustration got the best of him. The apology came Wednesday in a statement released by his ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Lucky’s Market is considering a move in to the old Albertsons box space in Clearwater, according to preliminary plans filed with the city. Lucky’s master broker, Rick Lewellyn, was listed on an agenda as discussing renovating the existing property wi...
Updated: 4 hours ago