WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton added her voice Tuesday to the chorus calling for Congress to return to Washington as soon as possible to pass emergency funding to respond to the Zika virus.
After a visit to a Miami-area health clinic, the Democratic presidential nominee said she “would very much urge the leadership of Congress to call people back for a special session and get a bill passed.”
Congressional Democrats have been making the same public plea in recent days, and President Barack Obama chastised lawmakers last week for leaving until September without approving the funding. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, also called on them to return, saying in a statement Tuesday that Congress “needs to immediately come back to session to resolve this.”
Clinton also took a veiled shot at her Republican opponent Donald Trump, alluding to a Boston Globe report in which a Trump campaign official based in Florida called Zika “an insignificant issue.”
“I disagree with those who say Zika is an insignificant issue,” she said. “This is something we need to take seriously, and I certainly do.”
Trump took a milder view of the Zika situation when asked about it during his own swing through Florida last week. He called it a “big problem,” but added that Scott is “going to have it under control. He probably already does.”
The Republican nominee also deferred to Scott on whether Congress needs to come back into session.
In her comments, Clinton specifically backed the $1.1 billion package that the Senate passed with 89 votes in May, and suggested that Congress should either pass it or write a new compromise bill.
The latest version of the bill, however, got stuck in the Senate after House and Senate Republicans added provisions regarding Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act that lost the support of most Democrats. Congress left last month for a seven-week break without approving funding for a Zika response.
Republicans insist they’ve already compromised, since they’ve agreed to the $1.1 billion figure that Democrats voted for, and accuse the minority of playing politics on the Planned Parenthood issue.
Administration officials have warned that the Ebola money they transferred in April to jumpstart a Zika response will soon run out, putting activities like vaccine development at risk of being delayed.
“Pass the bipartisan bill from the Senate or come up with a new compromise that does the same and tries to get resources moving as quickly as possible,” Clinton said. “We don’t want to wake up in a year and read so many more stories” like the news Tuesday that an infant in Texas had died from Zika-related complications.
“We just shouldn’t tolerate that,” she said.