Senate Dems: No August break without Zika deal

Greg Nash

Top Senate Democrats lashed out at Republicans Thursday, arguing they shouldn’t leave for a seven-week recess without reaching a deal to fund the fight against the Zika virus.

“We’re going on a seven-week vacation … and unless the Republicans become sensible, the Zika virus will have no work done,”  Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters. “This is really outrageous that we’re going to go on vacation while this national emergency is pending.”

{mosads}Reid’s comments come after Senate Democrats blocked a broader military and veterans spending bill, which included $1.1 billion for the mosquito-borne virus. They are demanding Republicans negotiate a new agreement instead.

But lawmakers face a tight schedule to get legislation to President Obama’s desk before leaving for the annual “August recess,” which will have them out of Washington from mid-July until Sept. 6. According to Democrats, the Senate is on schedule to be in session for the fewest number of days since 1956.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that Republicans “took the Zika funding hostage.”

“Remember we’ve seen this movie before. This is what they do. They have this hard-right group; they’re afraid to buck them,” he added.

Democrats oppose the current deal because of a myriad of policy fights, including how the money was paid for and a provision preventing funding for Planned Parenthood.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled a redo vote on the Zika funding for next week, but with both sides digging in, it’s expected to fail.

Schumer singled out Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, who has taken to the floor with photos of children with microcephaly to criticize Democrats.

“If he cares about those babies, he’ll come back. … Come here and get the job done,” Schumer said.

Democrats are pledging to keep fighting over the Zika virus, saying lawmakers should be able to come to a deal closer in line with a $1.1 billion agreement passed by the Senate earlier this year.

The deal, spearhead by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), didn’t pay for the Zika funding, earning it immediate backlash from House Republicans.


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