This week: Congress moves forward with Zika funding
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The House and Senate are both expected to consider proposals this week to fund efforts for combating the Zika virus after months of fractious debate with the White House. 

Neither of the measures slated for votes in either chamber meets the Obama administration's original request in February of $1.9 billion. 

Senators are instead expected to move forward with a $1.1 billion package, while the House version will likely be lower and fully offset.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellToomey on gun reform: 'Beto O'Rourke is not helping' Election meddling has become the new normal of US diplomacy DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support MORE (R-Ky.) is moving forward with three separate proposals. 

The Republican leader teed up an amendment from Florida Sens. 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) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' Trump faces difficult balancing act with reelection campaign MORE (R) that would meet the Obama administration's request. He also filed cloture on an amendment from Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump walks tightrope on gun control DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R-Texas) that would provide $1.1 billion in Zika funding and is offset by cutting from the Affordable Care Act's prevention fund, and a separate deal from Sens. 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.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump McConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer MORE (R-Mo.) to provide $1.1 billion. 

Though the Murray-Blunt agreement has bipartisan support and is expected to prevail, the smaller funding amount has also gained backlash from Democrats. 

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBarr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks Harry Reid warns Trump 'can be reelected' Homeland Security Republican accuses Navy of withholding UFO info MORE (D-Nev.) said late last week that "fulfilling half of the president's request is at most a paltry band-aid."

Conservatives in both chambers have separately voiced concerns about funding Zika without paying for it. 

The Zika amendments can come up for a procedural vote in the Senate as early as Tuesday, where one will need to get 60 votes to move forward. The Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on the Nelson-Rubio amendment first before moving —if it fails— to Cornyn's amendment, and then, if it fails, to the Blunt-Murray compromise. 

Rubio, during a floor speech late last week, urged his colleagues to back his amendment because the extra funding could help Puerto Rico, which has been hard hit by the virus. But he told The Hill that while he hopes his amendment passes, he intends to support every Zika amendment. 

The Blunt-Murray agreement is expected to be attached as an amendment to the merged Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) and military construction and veterans benefits appropriations bill. 

The two normally separate, but generally uncontroversial, appropriations bills have been merged together as McConnell tries to get each of the 12 bills passed through the Senate despite the tight election-year schedule. 

The House, meanwhile, is expected to move forward with its first 2017 spending bill of the year to fund the Department of Veterans' Affairs and military construction projects. Appropriators are moving full steam ahead with individual spending bills despite the House GOP's failure to pass a new budget resolution this year.

Nonetheless, the House is able to start floor consideration of appropriations bills after May 15 even if it hasn't passed a budget. The House passed six out of the 12 appropriations bills last year, and lawmakers hope to clear at least a handful before both chambers adjourn in July. The Senate, meanwhile, only passed one individual measure last year.

Defense authorization

The House is slated to consider the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), one of the few bills that has managed to pass every year for decades despite congressional gridlock.

This year's measure would authorize $610 billion for defense spending. But it uses a total of $23 billion from a war fund known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) for base budget requirements, beyond the $5 billion requested by the Obama administration. 

Moreover, the war fund would only be authorized through April 2017, meaning the next president would have to request supplemental funds at that point to maintain overseas operations.

Expected passage of the bill sets up a fight with Democrats and the Pentagon, who warn that the unusual use of war funds could leave troops stationed abroad without necessary funding. Republicans, however, say that the extra base funding will provide resources for training troops and repairing equipment.

The House will also have to find a way to eventually reconcile its version with the Senate, which authorizes $8 billion less in spending. 

In the meantime, this week's House floor debate is expected to feature amendment fights over allowing illegal immigrants to enlist in the military, requiring women to sign up for the draft, and cutting the size of the National Security Council (NSC) from about 400 staffers to 100.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) unveiled an amendment last week to downsize the NSC following recent controversial comments from senior staffer Ben Rhodes describing how the Obama administration sold the Iran deal to the public.

Republicans have seized on The New York Times magazine profile of Rhodes to accuse the Obama administration of manipulating the public to advance the Iran deal. The House Oversight Committee wants Rhodes to testify at a hearing on Tuesday on "White House Narratives on the Iran Nuclear Deal," but it appears unlikely he will attend.

Amendments that are unlikely to get green lights from GOP leadership for floor votes include bipartisan measures urging Congress to formally authorize the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Lawmakers' latest push for a war authorization comes after the Obama administration recently sent hundreds more troops to Iraq and Syria, nearly two years after the airstrikes began.

- Rebecca Kheel contributed.