Wasserman Schultz calls out Congress, Gov. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio over Zika
By Olivia Dimmer
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called for cooperation between state and federal leaders to combat the Zika virus on Monday.
She spoke with senior citizens at a town hall at the Southwest Focal Point Senior Center in Pembroke Pines, about 20 miles north of the Zika hotbed near Wynwood, where at least 16 locally acquired Zika diagnoses have been made.
While pregnant women are most vulnerable to the virus, older citizens are also at risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases, warned Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.
"Senior citizens are more vulnerable because they have more vulnerabilities to illness since their resistance is often lower, they're more susceptible to illness than younger people," she said.
Wasserman Schultz called on Congress to reconvene from its summer recess to approve the $1.9 billion in Zika funding requested by President Barack Obama. She highlighted her own efforts to pass similar funding but blamed House Republicans for blocking the funding.
She also criticized Gov. Rick Scott for cutting money for mosquito control and closing the Public Health Entomology Research and Education Lab in Panama City Beach, known for its studies on mosquitoes.
While Scott blames Congress for not approving emergency funding, "he bears some responsibility in this problem that we're facing now," Wasserman Schultz told the roughly 40 constituents who came to town hall.
Frances Condro, of Pembroke Pines, said she came to the town hall with concerns about the health hazards of Zika.
"I'm concerned about the pregnant young women," she said. "If I get bit, I don't know what would happen to me, but it might be serious because I am 87 years old."
Condro lives with her daughter and said they take care to drain any standing water near their house.
Wasserman Schultz faces a Democratic primary challenge from Nova Southeastern University law professor Tim Canova on Aug. 30.
After the town hall, Wasserman Schultz addressed comments made by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who said he opposed abortions for Zika-affected women.
"It's irresponsible to put limitations on how we combat a virus that can result in birth defects, life-threatening birth defects in babies born to pregnant women who contract the Zika virus," she said. "Those decisions should be left between a woman and her doctor and the government should not interfere with those decisions."
As a member of the House appropriations committee, Wasserman Schultz said she and other Democrats will continue to try and push Zika funding through once Congress comes back from summer recess after Labor Day.