- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged Congress Wednesday to brush partisanship aside and treat the looming Zika virus “like a hurricane,” saying his state is depending on resources and specific planning to gird for the mosquito-borne illness linked to serious birth defects and other health problems.

Mr. Scott, a Republican, said he will meet with congressional leaders in Washington on May 11 and 12 to press for a clear plan in case the illness begins to spread on its own in Gulf Coast states like his, or the rest of the U.S. mainland.

Florida has recorded more than 100 travel-related cases of Zika, and health officials warn that the disease could puncture the states further once temperatures climb and mosquito populations flourish.

“We don’t yet know for certain what will happen with this virus, but we owe our citizens a vigorous and thorough preparation effort at the federal level to best protect their health,” Mr. Scott said. “Congress and the Obama administration have discussed different plans to combat the Zika virus, some with different price tags. While there is no doubt that Washington wastes money on many things, that vast history of wrongful spending should not stop the federal government from doing the right thing now by executing a robust plan to prevent and combat the spread of Zika in America.”

President Obama has urged Congress to approve his $1.9 billion request for emergency spending to combat Zika and backfill $510 million in Ebola funding that he has shifted to the burgeoning threat.

Yet Republican leaders say the Ebola funding should cover immediate costs and that additional money could be disbursed through this year’s appropriations process. Last week, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said he doesn’t want to give the administration a “blank check” to fight Zika, while House conservatives have demanded that any additional spending be offset by budget cuts elsewhere.

Mr. Scott didn’t suggest a dollar amount in his statement Thursday, though he is adding his voice to Florida Republicans who want Congress to do something before Zika hits. The Sunshine State is relatively warm and has significant populations of Zika’s primary vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, has urged fellow lawmakers to approve Mr. Obama’s funding request as long as it’s used solely to combat Zika.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican whose district includes coastal communities south of Tampa, issued his call for complete funding Monday.

“Zika’s shadow is spreading too quickly in Florida, which has one-quarter of all the Zika cases in the United States,” Mr. Buchanan said. “The rest of the country should keep in mind that summer is coming and so are the mosquitoes. Congress needs to act quickly.”

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