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The Senate's Republican and Democratic leaders battled Monday over funding to fight the Zika virus, a clear sign that lawmakers have yet to break a stalemate days ahead of a seven-week recess.
Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) tried to bring up the Senate's original deal — spearheaded by Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSunday shows - Democrats' spending plan in the spotlight GOP senator: Best thing Trump could do to help Republicans in 2022 is talk about future It's time to make access to quality kidney care accessible and equitable for all MORE (R-Mo.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats try to back Manchin off killing paid family leave proposal Democrats cutting paid leave from spending deal amid Manchin opposition Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending MORE (D-Wash.) — that would provide $1.1 billion in funding.
"Instead of wasting time, we should be responding to the real Zika emergency," Reid said from the Senate floor. "Remember, we passed out of here a bill, 89 votes. It wasn't everything we wanted. It was a compromise."
The Senate bill doesn't include an offset for the Zika money, which earned immediate backlash from House Republicans.
McConnell blocked Reid's request. Instead, he tried to bring up the GOP-supported House-Senate conference report, to which Reid objected.
Though the conference report also provides $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus, Democrats oppose how it's paid for and a provision blocking funding for Planned Parenthood.
Reid, on Monday, called it a "disgrace" and warned that it "isn't going anyplace."
"He's proposing a completely partisan conference report ridden with poison pill riders, one of the worst conference reports I've seen this body," Reid said.
The rhetorical battle comes as the Senate is expected to take a second vote on the Zika funding, which is attached to a larger veterans and military spending bill, after Democrats blocked the House-passed deal late last month.
With both sides showing no signs of caving, it's increasingly likely Congress will head out of town for a seven-week recess without getting funding to President Obama's desk.
Top Senate Republicans, including McConnell, warn that the conference report, which has drawn a veto threat from the White House, is the Senate's only option unless it wants to punt the Zika fight into the fall.
McConnell, on Monday, added the push by Democrats to repass the Murray-Blunt agreement amounted to them trying to find "political cover" and that the conference report can't be changed.
"Either Democrats believe Zika is a crisis that requires immediate action or they don't," the Republican leader said from the floor. "Either Democrats think protecting pregnant women and babies from Zika today is more important or they think holding out for an earmark for their favorite partisan special interest group is more important."