1. Florida

Bill Nelson comes to Marco Rubio's defense on Zika funding

One of Patrick Murphy's key supporters in his bid for U.S. Senate has undercut the Democratic congressman's recent attack on Marco Rubio over federal Zika funding.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson came to Rubio's defense Tuesday following another unsuccessful vote in the Senate.

Nelson told reporters on Capitol Hill that it's not Rubio, Florida's Republican incumbent, who has failed to deliver on the federal aid -- as Murphy alleged in a media conference call earlier in the day.

"The person that hasn't delivered the Zika funding bill is (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell. We already passed it in the Senate, clean, without the political riders," Nelson said, adding that Rubio "can point to that he has voted for it in the past."

"If McConnell would insist that the House not put the political riders on it, we'd have it done," Nelson added.

Murphy earlier Tuesday criticized Rubio for "not being able to deliver" on a "clean" Zika bill and for having "very little pull there with leadership in the Senate."

But that accusation doesn't match Rubio's own voting record.

"Remember, he voted for the $1.9 billion and he was my co-sponsor. And he voted for the $1.1 billion with no riders," Nelson said, adding that he doesn't care so much about individual politicians getting credit. "I don't care how we get it done; I just want to get this thing addressed head-on."

Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp said in a statement Wednesday that Rubio's membership in the Senate majority and his ties to McConnell should translate into better influence -- on this issue, in particular -- but haven't.

"Senator Rubio, who was begged to run again by his at-risk majority leader, clearly doesn't have the pull he brags about," Karp said. "Speaker (Paul) Ryan clearly won't do Patrick or Democratic leadership any favors, and Patrick's pull with the Republican House speaker isn't at issue."

Nonetheless, Karp said, "over the past several weeks, Patrick has worked hard to cut through the Washington dysfunction." For instance, Murphy -- like Rubio and other members of the Florida delegation -- unsuccessfully called on Congress to return early from its summer recess to approve the Zika funding.

Murphy -- a two-term congressman from Jupiter whom Nelson endorsed -- has repeatedly attacked Rubio in recent weeks for Congress' inability to pass a "clean" bill for $1.9 billion in aid to fight the Zika virus. Murphy, who twice voted against funding proposals, said he specifically wants a measure that's for the full amount requested and that's free of "de-funding of health clinics or any other nonsense games."

One proposal stalled last month over language excluding funds for Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico, causing Democrats and Republicans to point fingers at each other -- including Murphy and Rubio.

Reporter Lindsay Wise of McClatchy's Washington D.C. bureau contributed to this report.