Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen formally asked GOP leaders in Congress on Friday to convene an emergency session to fund efforts to fight and prevent the Zika virus spreading in Miami.
"I have been demanding an effective response from our federal government for months to ensure that we contain and eliminate this public health crisis," she wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "Yet, the most critical role for Congress to play in the federal government’s response – appropriating an adequate and reliable stream of funding to support impacted states and local communities – has been caught up in protracted political battles."
Congress should pass stand-alone legislation funding President Barack Obama's request for $1.9 billion in Zika money, she added.
The congresswoman also wrote Obama on Friday, asking him to "reprogram" money from elsewhere in the federal budget toward Zika.
"The possibility of quickly reprogramming additional funds while Congress works to pass a robust Zika funding package was one idea generated from my meeting in Miami yesterday with Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart," she said. Rubio has publicly made a similar request.
Campaigning in South Miami on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden indicated the Obama administration could re-purpose some money that had been set aside to combat Ebola to fight Zika instead, but he reiterated that congressional action is needed.
"Now, look, we're able to take the money we have now leftover from the fund we put together to deal with Ebola, but we need new legislation," he said. "It's almost unconscionable."
Ros-Lehtinen is up for re-election and faces a Democratic challenger in first-time candidate Scott Fuhrman, who has pointedly jabbed at the congresswoman about Zika on Twitter and in press releases.