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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida leaves the Capitol in Washington after a vote on Sept. 8, 2016. (New York Times photo) U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida leaves the Capitol in Washington after a vote on Sept. 8, 2016. (New York Times photo)

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida leaves the Capitol in Washington after a vote on Sept. 8, 2016. (New York Times photo)

Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin September 14, 2016

Patrick Murphy has voted against 'every' Zika funding bill, Marco Rubio says

While the Senate bickers over Zika funding, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign says Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy has been playing partisan politics over the issue in the House.

The same day the Senate failed to approve emergency public health funding to deal with Zika for the third time in three months, Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said Murphy has been an obstructionist.

"Patrick Murphy is the only candidate to have voted against every measure to fund Zika," she said on Sept. 7, 2016. (By "only," she meant the only general election Senate candidate, comparing Murphy to Rubio.)

That doesn’t sound like the position a Florida congressman facing a Zika outbreak would take in an election year, so we checked the record. We should note Rubio has supported high-level funding for Zika efforts, even co-sponsoring a bill with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Perez-Cubas was speaking for Rubio, so we are putting Rubio on the Truth-O-Meter.

It turns out Murphy has opposed plenty of Republican-backed funding proposals, but "every" is putting it too strong. He still has voted for some measures.

Funding malaise

President Barack Obama first asked Congress for $1.89 billion in funding in February 2016 to deal with a potential outbreak of Zika. The virus has been linked to cases of infant microcephaly, or babies born with abnormally small heads. There is no treatment or vaccine for the disease, so focus has been on prevention.

There are at least 771 cases of Zika in Florida, including several local transmissions in the Miami area. But that count may not always be the most accurate.

Murphy has been involved with other Zika-related bills, including acting as a cosponsor for a Democrat-favored measure (HR 5044) that provided the full amount Obama requested. Those bills have not left committees in the House.

A deeply partisan Congress, meanwhile, has fought all year over finding the money for mosquito control, vaccine development, diagnosing the disease, public education campaigns and more. There have been several measures introduced to deal with the disease, but the main focus this summer has been on some legislative wrangling over appropriations bills.

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House Republicans on May 18 passed a measure (HR 5243) that would have provided $622 million for Zika. With Obama threatening to veto the measure, Murphy voted no on that one with other Democrats. It was not taken up in the Senate.

The next day, Murphy voted yes for a bill (HR 4974) that would have allowed the White House to repurpose leftover funding to deal with the 2014 Ebola outbreak and use it for Zika. Rubio’s campaign said this bill didn’t count, because there was no specified dollar amount, and didn’t guarantee the money would be used for Zika, only that it could. But that’s splitting hairs, because HR 4974 still would have provided at least one option to fund Zika-related programs.

Now it’s time for a civics lesson, because what the House did next wasn’t covered on Schoolhouse Rock. The House then passed another bill (HR 2557) that was originally about funding for transportation and other agencies. Instead, the bill became a vehicle for Zika funding using language from HR 5243, the Republican measure.

The House wanted $622 million for Zika, but cut that money from other programs in order to stay budget-neutral, a process known as recission. The House also added provisions restricting contraception services that Democrats opposed. The Senate wanted $1.1 billion in new funding. The bill went to conference in June to iron out differences. The House agreed to $1.1 billion in funding, as long as about $700 million was found through cutting other areas.

Murphy voted against final passage of HR 2577, and against adopting the conference report instituting the changes.

The Senate is currently battling over the bill. Senate Democrats have so far blocked a vote three times in three months, wanting a "clean" bill with no contraception provisions and the full $1.89 billion originally requested.

That’s not the end of the line, however. On June 16, Murphy voted for HR 5293, a bill that would allow the administration to shift money in the Defense Department to help with Zika efforts through that agency. Again, there was no set dollar amount or guarantee that’s how the money would be used, but it was another option in the Zika toolbox. It passed the House but is stuck in the Senate.

"Murphy did vote in favor of two efforts to transfer funds in support of Zika efforts and opposed the major effort in hopes of gaining more funding than the Republicans offered," said Steven Smith, a Washington University in St. Louis political science professor.

Our ruling

Rubio, through a spokeswoman, said, "Patrick Murphy is the only candidate to have voted against every measure to fund Zika."

Murphy, like most congressional Democrats, has opposed Republican-led efforts to conditionally fund anti-Zika efforts at less than what Obama has requested. But he has offered other solutions and voted against his party for two bills that would have allowed unspecified amounts of money to be repurposed for Zika programs.

So the campaign was wrong to say he voted against "every" measure. We rate Rubio’s statement False.

Our Sources

Tampa Bay Times Buzz blog, "Murphy, Rubio continue to swat at each other over Zika," Sept. 6, 2016

CNN, "House ignores veto threat, approves $622 million Zika bill," May 18, 2016

The Hill, "House approves $622M Zika funding bill," May 18, 2016, H. Rept. 114-640, June 22, 2016

U.S. News & World Report, "House Passes $1.1B Zika Funding Bill," June 23, 2016

USA Today, "House approves $1.1 billion deal to combat Zika virus," June 23, 2016

Politico, "Democrats block Zika funding bill, blame GOP," June 28, 2016

PolitiFact Florida, "Democrats stretch impact of Planned Parenthood exclusion in Zika bill," June 28, 2016

PolitiFact, "Paul Ryan blames Dems for Zika stalemate, omits key detail," Aug. 4, 2016

Congressional Research Service, "Zika Response Funding: Request and Congressional Action," Sept. 1, 2016

Kaiser Family Foundation, "The Status of Funding for Zika: The President’s Request and Congressional Proposals," Sept. 6, 2016

USA Today, "Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy trade blows over Zika funding," Sept. 6, 2016

Time, "Here’s Why Zika Funding Is Stalled in Congress," Sept. 6, 2016

Tampa Bay Times, "Zika funding becomes political weapon in Florida's U.S. Senate race," Sept. 7, 2016

New Jersey Star-Ledger, "Why Democrats keep refusing to pass Zika funding," Sept. 7, 2016

Reuters, "Biden asks U.S. Congress to allow unencumbered Zika funding vote," Sept. 8, 2016

Wall Street Journal, "The Patrick Murphy Zika Filibuster," Sept. 8, 2016

Politico, "Senate nears Zika funding breakthrough," Sept. 8, 2016

PolitiFact Florida, "NARAL misleads in attack on Marco Rubio about Zika funding," Sept. 8, 2016

Miami Herald, "Florida reports eight more local Zika infections," Sept. 12, 2016

Tampa Bay Times, "Florida's Zika undercount hides extent of virus' spread, experts say," Sept. 13, 2016, HR 897, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, HR 5243, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, HR 736, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, HR 4974, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, HR 2577, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, HR 5293, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, HR 5492, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, HR 5044, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, HR 751, accessed Sept. 12, 2016, "H.R. 2577: Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017," accessed Sept. 12, 2016

Interview with Michael Ahrens, Rubio spokesman, Sept. 9, 2016

Interview with Galia Slayen, Murphy spokeswoman, Sept. 12-13, 2016

Interview with Steven Smith, Washington University in St. Louis political science professor, Sept. 12, 2016

Interview with Adam Wexler, Kaiser Family Foundation Global Health Budget Project director, Sept. 13, 2016

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Patrick Murphy has voted against 'every' Zika funding bill, Marco Rubio says

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