Top GOP senator: Zika money could end up in short-term spending bill

Greg Nash
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, said Tuesday he expects money to fight the Zika virus will ultimately be attached to a short-term government funding bill, despite a current stalemate over the issue in Congress.
“You know, I assume that it would be wrapped in the year-end fiscal negotiations that would lead to some sort of continuing resolution. That’s my assumption,” the Senate majority whip told reporters. “It would be grossly irresponsible not to deal with it. Of course it’s been pretty grossly irresponsible to filibuster it.” 
{mosads}Pressed if he meant that Zika money would likely be included in a continuing resolution (CR), a stopgap measure to keep the government funded after the end of the fiscal year ends in a few weeks, Cornyn said: “Basically it would become part of it, yeah.” 
Cornyn didn’t offer details on how much Zika virus funding could end up in the spending proposal.
The Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on a House-passed conference report that includes $1.1 billion to fight the virus on Tuesday evening. 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need 60 votes to overcome the hurdle. Democrats are expected to block the conference report for a third time over concerns about how it’s paid for and a provision blocking money for Planned Parenthood. 
Asked if Republicans would insist the Planned Parenthood language stay in the bill, Cornyn called Democrats’ concerns on the family planning organization a “phony objection.” 
“What they’re asking for is an earmark for Planned Parenthood,” he added. “It’s an excuse and justification for part of their political base.” 
Lawmakers would have roughly three weeks to reach a deal on fighting the Zika virus ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline to keep the government funded.
The House Freedom Caucus, and some Senate Republicans including Cornyn, want a longer-term CR that extends into 2017 in an effort to skip an end-of-year session. But Cornyn seemed to acknowledge Tuesday that lawmakers will likely need a “lame duck” meeting after the November election.
“I’ve heard what Sen. Reid [said] and also the threats from the White House if something beyond the lame-duck session is passed,” he told reporters. “Lame ducks are a terrible way to do business … but I’ve just explained to you the hand we’ve been dealt, and we’re going to have to work our way through it.” 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Tuesday that Democrats won’t support not returning to Washington after the election or a short-term spending bill that stretches into next year. 
“Now Republicans are suggesting another 10 weeks of vacation? Speaker Ryan and Sen. McConnell should understand that Democrats will not support 10 weeks away from Washington,” Reid said from the Senate floor. 
Tags Harry Reid John Cornyn Mitch McConnell

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