Dem senator to McConnell: Bring back Senate Zika deal


Sen. Bill Nelson is asking Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring up a Senate-passed bill to combat the Zika virus ahead of Congress’s seven-week recess. 

The Florida Democrat sent a letter to McConnell Thursday noting that a $1.1 billion deal passed the Senate in May with bipartisan support. 
{mosads}”The partisan Conference report for H.R. 2577 that the Senate voted on last week was not a serious solution. I strongly urge you to advance a bipartisan bill that provides emergency funding and is free of misguided policy riders,” Nelson wrote in the letter. 
Senate Democrats blocked a House-passed Zika agreement last week. Though it also included $1.1 billion, Democrats objected to where the money came from, as well as to a provision that would block funding for Planned Parenthood. 
Despite steep Democratic opposition, McConnell is expected to hold a vote on the House-approved deal again next week. The stalemate makes it all but certain that Congress will leave for its August recess without getting Zika legislation to President Obama’s desk. 
Nelson, however, noted the dwindling time to try to pressure the Republican leader into accepting the Senate’s alternative legislation. 
“Time is of the essence,” he wrote. “Funding our nation’s Zika response is something that simply cannot wait any longer and it cannot be used as a vehicle to advance partisan, ideological positions.” 
But the Senate’s bill, which doesn’t offset its costs, has drawn fierce backlash from the House Republicans who say it won’t get enough support to pass in the lower chamber. 
McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sparred over the Zika standstill earlier Thursday. 
McConnell said Reid has been “leading a partisan filibuster of the anti-Zika funding for over a week.” 
Reid, however, is urging House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to bring up the Senate-passed legislation, arguing it could win enough support. 
“This legislation would save lives, and it would pass the House of Representatives if they would let the Democrats vote,” he said.
The Zika virus, which can be spread by mosquitoes and sexual contact, has been shown to cause severe birth defects. Health officials expect the virus to spread in the U.S. this summer.

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