Florida Dem pushes McConnell on Zika funding
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The Florida Democrat sent a letter to McConnell Tuesday saying he could use what's called a pro-forma meeting, which normally last for a few minutes at most, to avoid bringing every senator back to Washington. 
 
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"If you feel it would be too difficult to immediately reconvene the entire Senate, you and Sen. [Harry] Reid could, under Senate rules, simply agree during one of the remaining nine pro forma sessions to allow a senator by unanimous consent to take up and pass the same $1.1 billion Zika-funding bill that the Senate overwhelmingly passed back in May," Nelson wrote. 
 
Lawmakers left Washington last month and won't return from their seven-week "August recess" until early September. 
 
The Senate is scheduled to hold a brief pro-forma session roughly every three business days during the break. The move will block President Obama from confirming Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland over GOP objections. 
 
Nelson faces an uphill, unlikely battle to get the Senate's Zika legislation — spearheaded by Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean Blunt‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration The border deal: What made it in, what got left out MORE (R-Mo.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators seek answers on surprise medical bills | Red states move to limit Medicaid expansion | Two drug companies agree to testify Senate Dems block Sasse measure meant to respond to Virginia bill MORE (D-Wash.) — through the Senate during the summer recess. He would need every senator to agree to allow him to bring the bill up. 
 
The House is also scheduled to be out of session until September. House GOP lawmakers have balked at the Senate deal because the Zika money isn't paid for. 
 
But Nelson added Tuesday that the virus "has gone from serious to emergency." 
 
"Our health officials need now, more than ever, to stop the spread of this virus. We cannot afford to wait another five weeks for Congress to return," he wrote. 
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday that the Obama administration has spent $201 million of the $374 million it repurposed in April to fight the Zika virus. The CDC has also deployed an emergency response team to Miami, where more than a dozen people are believed to have acquired Zika, which can cause severe birth defects, directly from mosquitoes. The cases mark the first time that Zika has been locally transmitted in the continental United States. 
 
The Senate is currently scheduled to take a third vote on a House-passed deal to provide $1.1 billion in Zika funding once lawmakers return in September. Democrats, however, have blocked the proposal over concerns about how it's paid for and a provision that would prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood.