Senate Advances $1.1 Billion in Emergency Zika Funding

House GOP bill cuts price tag in half

In a 68-to-29 vote, the Senate has advanced $1.1 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The amendment is expected to be attached to a military construction and transportation spending bill, which the Senate is expected to pass later this week. The Senate initiative provides slightly less than the $1.9 billion that President Obama had requested from Congress in February.

Meanwhile, the House is set to begin debates on a Republican-sponsored stand-alone bill that would provide only $622 million to fight Zika through September. The House bill would redirect funds that Republicans say are left over from the Ebola outbreak as well as other unused money at the Health and Human Services Department.

The White House has threatened to veto the House GOP bill, saying its funding is “woefully inadequate to support the response our public health experts say is needed” and that it would be a mistake to redirect funding away from Ebola prevention efforts.

If passed, the $1.1 billion Senate package would send $361 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for programs and $200 million to the National Institutes of Health to aid in vaccine research. Money would also go toward new diagnostic tests for Zika virus infection, and more than $50 million is meant for Puerto Rico, which has been especially hard hit, according to the Journal.

Earlier, two competing Zika funding proposals were blocked on procedural votes in the Senate. One measure that would have fully funded the administration’s $1.9 billion request stalled in a 50-to-47 vote. The other measure, which would have provided $1.1 billion in Zika funding by trimming the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was halted in a 52-to-45 vote. Both measures needed 60 votes to advance.

Source: Wall Street Journal; May 17, 2016.