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Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) is urging his colleagues to support the Obama administration's request for $1.8 billion to combat the Zika virus.
"It's critical that we approve the funds now immediately and give our government the resources it needs to fight the virus," Reid said Monday. He added that he was "encouraged" by the president's request, which comes days after Senate Democrats urged him to be more aggressive.
With the virus linked to birth defects, Reid suggested the U.S. government's response should also include increasing access to contraceptives.
Obama's funding request comes as Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mathews BurwellOvernight Healthcare: GOP chairman to introduce pre-existing condition bill ObamaCare enrollment hits 11.5M for 2017 Obama, Dems eyeing strategy to defend ObamaCare MORE is expected to brief Senate leadership, as well as top committee members, on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again MORE (R-Ky.) said he hoped to get a better understanding of what the administration is currently doing and what the administration's "funding priorities" are during Tuesday's meeting.
Of the $1.8 billion the president is requesting, $1.48 billion is expected to go to HHS, with most of that going to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The briefing comes amid increasing concern from lawmakers over the potential for a U.S. outbreak of the Zika virus, particularly as the United States heads toward summer. Administration officials have suggested that any outbreak in the United States would be limited.
As of last Friday, the Zika virus had infected 51 people in the United States, with most of the cases originating abroad.