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.

{mosads}”We all agree that the Zika virus is real threat and needs to be addressed,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Nelson (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 Klobuchar (D-Minn.) calling the amount a “floor” to what could gain Democratic approval.

Sen. Patty Murray (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.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bill Nelson Mitch McConnell Patty Murray Zika virus

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