Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Wednesday slammed a GOP-led effort to set aside far fewer emergency funds to fight Zika than what President Obama and other Florida Republicans want.
The House on Wednesday signed off on a scaled-back, $622 million funding measure that Obama has pledged to veto. The president wants $1.9 billion instead; the Senate has approved a compromise, $1.1 million package.
Only four Republicans -- Curbelo among them -- voted against the bill, which passed almost entirely along party lines. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the $622 million inadequate.
"As a Member of Congress representing the country's southernmost district -- closest to the region where this disease is currently wreaking havoc -- I am acutely aware of the impacts Zika will have if not contained and eradicated," Curbelo said in a statement. "I cannot vote for this half-hearted, short-sighted effort, and I remain in strong support of funding the Administration's $1.9 billion Zika response requests."
Democrats have criticized Curbelo, a freshman in a swing district, for not being more forceful in his support of Obama's funding request. The congressman had instead focused on passing legislation intended to make sure any Zika money -- be it $1.9 billion or some other amount -- was spent efficiently.
The Zika question has caused a rare divide among Miami Republicans in Congress. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart told the Miami Herald he would support the House's $622 million to treat and prevent the mosquito-borne virus.
The third local Republican in the House, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was conspicuously silent on the issue ahead of the vote, but like Curbelo voted against the House measure Wednesday. So did a third Florida Republican, Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota. (The fourth 'No' GOP vote -- and the only one from outside Florida -- came from Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.)
I voted NO on #Zika bill because the funding was inadequate to fight this dangerous virus. We can do better to keep South Floridians safe.— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) May 19, 2016
With Wednesday's vote and statement, Curbelo made abundantly clear that he wants the full funding -- as does Sen. Marco Rubio, who has received abundant White House praise for his position.
"The threat posed by the Zika virus does not cease at the end of the government’s fiscal year, and rescinding funds in this bill on September 30 would provide little confidence that Congress is truly committed to fighting the disease," Curbelo said.