WASHINGTON - Just imagine the panic if these mosquitoes were unleashed in the halls of the Capitol, U.S. Rep. David Jolly said, standing on the House floor this morning with a clear container holding 100 Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Mind you the mosquitoes (larvae, actually, from the University of South Florida) do not carry the virus but the point was clear. "This is the fear of Floridians, right here," Jolly said. "The politics of Zika are garbage."
Rep. Ilenana Ros-Lehtinen spoke minutes before him and decried political "paralysis." She called for a $1.9 billion spending package without policy riders.
Riders are at the heart of a stalemate between Democrats and Republicans that picked up Tuesday after a long summer break. Senate Democrats blocked a $1.1 billion bill over objections to a provision aimed at preventing funding to Planned Parenthood (Zika can be transmitted sexually).
"Let's stop these political games. Let's stop these political riders," said Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. "Let's do what the Senate did three months ago when it passed – bipartisan by 69 votes – $ 1.1 billion in emergency funding, and send it down to the House and tell the House to stop playing these games."
The political games extend to Florida's Senate race.
"How many Floridians will get this virus before Marco Rubio puts our state before his political party and personal ambition?" Democrat Patrick Murphy said in a statement Tuesday evening. "I have consistently fought for a full and clean Zika funding bill and I will continue to show up and lead for the people of this state."
Rubio's campaign has questioned Murphy's own efforts while noting Rubio has voted for every version of the Zika bill before the Senate. His campaign also circulated comments from Nelson defending Rubio, who is facing TV ads in Florida for saying he opposes abortion for women infected with Zika.
"Remember, he 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."