Congress heading toward Zika conference
© Moriah Ratner

Lawmakers are heading toward a battle over how much money to spend fighting the Zika virus.

The Senate agreed by a voice vote Wednesday evening to go a joint House-Senate conference committee on a wide-ranging appropriations bill that includes $1.1 billion in unpaid-for funding to combat the Zika virus.


"We all agree that the Zika virus is real threat and needs to be addressed," Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' MORE (Ky.) said Wednesday. "We're now ready to go to conference and complete a final bill."

Lawmakers will need to find a way to reconcile the Senate bill with the $622 million in funding passed by the House, where Republicans have balked at supporting the larger amount.

The House version also uses funding originally meant to combat the Ebola virus to pay for the Zika virus efforts.

The Senate rejected a push by Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMedia and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 MORE (D-Fla.) that would have instructed senators on the conference committee to reject any proposal that would use Ebola money to pay for the Zika virus funding.

But Senate Democrats also warned earlier Wednesday that they won't back anything less than $1.1 billion, with Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharMSNBC Climate Change Forum draws 1.3M viewers in 8 pm timeslot The two most important mental health reforms the Trump administration should consider Sanders searches for answers amid Warren steamroller MORE (D-Minn.) calling the amount a "floor" to what could gain Democratic approval.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare MORE (D-Wash.), separately said that House Republicans "are bringing a watering can to a house fire."

Senate Democrats argue that Congress should pass $1.9 billion in Zika virus funding — the amount requested by President Obama.

But any measure would face an uphill — if not impossible — battle with Senate Republicans previously rejecting matching the president's proposal.