Zika funding overcomes key Senate hurdle
© Getty Images
The Senate is inching closer to a showdown with the House over Zika funding. 
Senators voted 68-29 to move forward with $1.1 billion in Zika funding, with 60 votes needed to overcome Tuesday's procedural hurdle. The Obama administration's original emergency spending request was for $1.9 billion to combat the mosquito-borne virus.
Top Democrats spent days criticizing the smaller figure — despite Murray's involvement in the deal — but ultimately conceded they would support it because it was better than nothing. 
"If your ship is sinking and you need 12 lifeboats but you can only get six, you take six," Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenRestless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Biden eyes new path for Fed despite Powell pick MORE (D-Mass.) said. "We will take whatever the Republicans who control the Senate are willing to give." 
The votes come a day after the House introduced legislation to provide $622 billion to fight the Zika virus. That proposal — expected to be attached to a House appropriations bill — has drawn backlash from both parties in the Senate, as well as the White House.
Murray called the House GOP legislation "a completely unacceptable, inadequate, purely partisan bill intended to give them political cover without actually solving the problem." 
"Frankly that's just not going to cut it," he said Tuesday. "I believe the House can and should do better than what it's proposed." 
GOP Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSununu setback leaves GOP scrambling in New Hampshire The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP dealt 2022 blow, stares down Trump-era troubles Sununu exit underscores uncertain GOP path to gain Senate majority MORE (N.H.), Bill Cassidy (La.) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (Ill.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBipartisan success in the Senate signals room for more compromise Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — US mulls Afghan evacuees' future Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — DOJ unveils new election hacking charges MORE (Ohio) and Rubio supported the amendment. 
Murray, who supported the Rubio-Nelson proposal, said her agreement with Blunt was a "first step" if Republicans wouldn't back the administration's full $1.9 billion request. 
Senate Democrats also blocked a separate amendment Tuesday from Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMental health: The power of connecting requires the power of investing Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 MORE (R-Texas) that would have provided $1.1 billion for Zika virus funding but taken money out of the Affordable Care Act's prevention fund. 
Even if the Murray-Blunt amendment gets added to the Senate's spending bill it will still need to be reconciled with the House bill, an effort that would likely take months. 
The White House has also threatened to the veto the larger Senate appropriations bill—the vehicle for the Zika money—if it reaches the president's desk without changes. 
Democrats initially pushed moving the Zika funding as a stand-alone bill, giving it a faster track through Congress. That idea, however, is a nonstarter with Republicans.