The debate in Washington D.C. over how to pay for Zika virus prevention and research has trickled into a fiercely competitive Texas congressional race.
Over the weekend, Republicans and Democrats left the Capitol for a two-week break without coming up with a funding plan to fight the virus, which has infected 618 people
in the U.S., including seven confirmed cases in San Antonio. Nearly all of those cases were acquired by people traveling abroad in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 11 cases, Zika was sexually transmitted.
Since that break, Texas Democrats have hammered U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican, who unseated Pete Gallego in a tight race in 2014 for the expansive 23rd congressional district that runs from West Texas to San Antonio. Gallego is challenging Hurd for the seat, which has frequently changed hands
between Democrats and Republicans.
“Pregnancy is a wonderful but stressful time. For my wife and me, it culminated in the most special day of our lives," Gallego said in a prepared statement. "But it is indefensible that Congress would add to the natural stress of expectant parents by failing to address the danger of Zika in our region or anywhere in the country.”
The Zika virus can cause infants to be born with abnormally small heads. There are 40 Zika cases in the Lone Star State, one of which was sexually transmitted.
Gallego's spokeswoman, Lyndsey Rodriguez, said Hurd should be ashamed for not pushing his Republican colleagues toward a compromise.
"Recycled talking points from Paul Ryan may work inside the beltway, but families affected by Zika in Hurd's own district deserve better," Rodriguez said in a statement. "Responsible parents know that the health and safety of Texas children trumps Republican marching orders. Will Hurd should be ashamed.”
Texas Democratic Party Deputy Executive Director Manny Garcia also lashed out at Hurd.
“Texas families are deeply concerned about the dangerous effects of the Zika virus spreading in their community," Garcia said in a statement. "The Lone Star State was deemed one of the most at-risk state in the country and Tea Party Republican Will Hurd has done nothing to prevent it from spreading."
The attacks against Hurd come as the Senate and the House fight over two funding bills. A Republican-backed bill in the House seeks $1.2 billion in funding while a Democratic-sponsored measure in the Senate would provide $2 billion in funding for Zika prevention and research. Legislators are expected to wrangle over both measures when they return to the Capitol this week
Hurd's office did not respond to a request for comment, but he told FOX News that Zika
is a real problem and $1.2 billion was already set aside for research and prevention, which isn't exactly true as it hasn't been approved.