- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott pleaded with President Obama on Wednesday to provide his state with mosquito traps, insecticide and other gear they need to fight the Zika virus, saying it is “profoundly disappointing” that Congress failed to pass a funding package before the start of hurricane season.

Zika causes serious birth defects, and the Republican governor said his state’s hot-and-wet climate is about to get a lot worse, allowing disease-carrying insects to flourish.

“Despite repeated calls for action, Congress has failed to act and now they are on vacation,” Mr. Scott wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama.

Congress skipped town for a Memorial Day recess that will stretch into next week without reconciling competing measures to fund efforts to develop a better diagnostic test and vaccine for Zika and boost local mosquito efforts.

The Senate has passed a bipartisan bill to spend $1.1 billion in emergency money, with no corresponding cuts elsewhere, meaning the money is tacked onto the deficit. In the House, Republicans won passage of a bill to spend only a little more than $600 million through Sept. 30, with the money coming from elsewhere in the president’s health budget.

Mr. Obama wants $1.9 billion in emergency money, though GOP leaders say he needs far less and that he should be willing to cut elsewhere in the budget to pay for it.

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Mr. Scott said he cannot afford to wait for everyone in Washington to get on the same page. He asked the administration to give him 5,000 Zika preparedness kits, mosquito spray and traps and personal-protection equipment, plus money to hire new personnel and educate the community about the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control has recorded nearly 600 travel-related cases of Zika in the continental U.S., including a handful through sexual transmission, and scientists expect the virus to flare up on the mainland once temperatures rise.

Mr. Scott wants Mr. Obama to send him a detailed plan by June 15 that outlines how his state should request emergency funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, once the disease starts spreading on its own through mosquito bites.

“There is no doubt that we fall further and further behind fighting the spread of this virus every day that passes and we are not fully prepared,” Mr. Scott wrote. “In Florida, we learned that the best way to protect our people during a hurricane is to have a good game plan before the storm comes. With the Zika virus, the storm is predicted by the CDC to be just around the corner, and we need federal action now to keep our citizens safe and healthy through what would no doubt be a disaster in this virus becomes mosquito-borne in our state.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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