Clinton urges emergency action on Zika in Florida
MIAMI >> Urging Congress to cut short its summer recess, Hillary Clinton called for emergency public health action Tuesday as she visited a Miami neighborhood dealing with the first U.S. outbreak of the Zika virus.
At a local health clinic, the Democratic presidential nominee said Republican congressional leaders should summon lawmakers back to Washington and immediately pass funding for the Zika response.
Clinton said she was "very disappointed" that Congress left for recess without passing legislation. She spoke after touring the Borinquen Medical Center, a health clinic close to the Wynwood area where 21 non-travel related cases of Zika have been diagnosed.
"Everybody has a stake in this. And that's really why I'm here," Clinton said. "We don't want to wake up in a year and read more stories about babies like the little girl who just died in Houston."
It's an issue that could affect votes in this crucial swing state where she has held a small advantage in recent polls. So far, Republican Donald Trump has not addressed the issue in depth, though he told a Florida television station last week that Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, "really seems to have it under control in Florida."
Trump, meanwhile, campaigning in North Carolina, stirred a new controversy by saying that if Clinton is elected, "Second Amendment people" could do something to prevent her from overturning the right to bear arms.
He contended, as he has in the past, that she would "essentially abolish" the Second Amendment.
He continued: "By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."
Clinton's campaign manager immediately denounced Trump's remarks, suggesting he was inciting violence.
But Trump's communications director, Jason Miller, said he was merely praising the "amazing spirit" of strong supporters of the Second Amendment's gun rights guarantee.
In Miami and beyond, there is growing concern about a different issue: new cases of Zika.
Until this month, the only known cases in the United States were in people who had recently traveled to Latin America or the Caribbean. Federal officials last week warned pregnant women to avoid the Miami neighborhood and a square-mile area around it.
Lawmakers left Washington in mid-July for a seven-week recess without approving any of the $1.9 billion that President Barack Obama requested in February to try to develop a vaccine and control the mosquitoes that carry the virus.
Obama, Clinton and Democrats blame Republicans for politicizing the legislation by adding a provision to a $1.1 billion take-it-or-leave-it measure that would have blocked Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico from receiving money.
Republicans, in turn, say the administration has not spent money that has already been provided and it's the Democrats who are playing politics in an election year.
In Florida leaders from both parties want Congress to return and allocate more dollars for Zika, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Scott, both Republicans.
Clinton also used her time in south Florida to show her support for former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, with a visit to the congresswoman's campaign office.
Wasserman Schultz resigned her DNC role after leaked emails showed an apparent lack of neutrality in the primary race among some party officials. She is facing a challenge in the Aug. 30 primary.
Clinton said she wanted Schultz in Congress "by my side."
On the national political stage, Trump is contending with concerns about his ability to serve as president, with a growing list of fellow Republicans deeming him unfit for the Oval Office.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate long wary of Trump, became the latest Republican to announce her intent not to vote for her party's nominee. She said late Monday in a Washington Post op-ed she'd thought "long and hard" about whether she was obligated to support the GOP nominee and decided she could not. Collins wrote that she supports neither party's nominee, though previously she's said she's open to voting for Hillary Clinton.
The defection by a respected senator added to a chorus of GOP voices insisting they can't back Trump. Some 50 Republican former national security officials signed an open letter calling Trump the most reckless candidate in history, prompting a counterattack from Trump, who said the signers share blame with Clinton for making the world "a mess" and aiding the Islamic State group's formation.
Despite renewed focus on GOP discord, Trump suggested Tuesday there will be no dramatic change of strategy.
"I think it's just, you know, steadiness," Trump told Fox Business. "And it's just doing what I'm doing."
A day earlier, Trump had tried in a major policy speech at the Detroit Economic Club to turn the page on a dreadful stretch in his campaign by unveiling his new tax proposal, which would reduce to three the number of income tax brackets and cut corporate taxes to 15 percent. Clinton quickly accused Trump of offering "super big tax breaks" to huge companies and rich people.
Late Monday, Clinton's campaign chairman announced she would take part in all three TV debates that the Commission on Presidential Debates is organizing. Trump has said he wants to debate but has complained that two of the debates are scheduled during NFL football games, claiming Democrats "rigged" the schedule.
Lucey reported from Miami. Associated Press writers Lisa Lerer, Christopher S. Rugaber and Josh Boak contributed to this report.
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