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Politics

Darren Soto's Proposal Targeting Zika, Mosquitoes Gains Momentum on Capitol Hill

April 27, 2017 - 8:45am
Bill Nelson, Darren Soto and Angus King
Bill Nelson, Darren Soto and Angus King

A push for more federal funding to eliminate mosquitos, which was introduced by a congressman from the Sunshine State and has the support of Florida’s two U.S. senators, is gaining steam on Capitol Hill. 

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unanimously backed U.S. Sen. Angus King’s, I-Maine, “Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act," a proposal to add $100 million annually in Centers for Disease Control (CDC) grants to help local communities eliminate mosquitos. The proposal also funds public health labs that are looking to eliminate the Zika virus and empowers the Government Accountability Office “to find ways to improve existing mosquito-control programs.”

“This is a positive step forward in the ongoing work to prepare for the fight against the Zika virus as we move into the warmer summer months,” King said. “And states and localities are where the battle can most effectively be fought. As we know, Maine has been fighting insect-borne diseases like Lyme for decades. Now, with the CDC outlining the serious and growing dangers of this virus, it’s critical that Congress move in an expedited manner to provide states with the funding they need for mosquito abatement efforts. I hope the Senate can quickly pass this common-sense bill.”

King’s proposal has the support of Florida’s two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, who signed on as co-sponsors. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, is also a co-sponsor. 

Nelson made his case for the proposal which King filed earlier this month. 

“One of the best ways to curb the spread of the Zika virus is to eliminate the insects known to carry it," Nelson said. "As summer approaches, Florida's mosquito population is going to rise, and we need to make sure our local mosquito-control boards have the resources they need to protect their communities."

Last month, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., introduced a similar proposal in the House.  Talking about why he had brought out the bill, Soto pointed to the Zika problems Florida faced last year. 

“During the recent outbreak of Zika, instead of strengthening this program, Congress decided to provide money solely for mosquito control to combat Zika. When that money runs out, that’s it,”  Soto said. “Instead of waiting for another crisis necessitating another expensive one-off Band-Aid bill, we should make the urgent investments needed to maintain the tools we already have.” 

Soto rounded up a dozen co-sponsors from the Sunshine State. Florida Republican Congressmen Carlos Curbelo and Matt Gaetz are behind the bill. So are ten congressional Democrats from the Sunshine State as U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson lined up as co-sponsors. 

Soto’s bill was sent to the House Energy and Commerce Committee which referred it to the House Health Subcommittee. 

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