Ryan: House will take bipartisan action on Zika funding

Getty Images

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he expects bipartisan action to approve funds to fight the Zika virus.

{mosads}“We do anticipate some kind of bipartisan action on this, because this is something we want to get ahead of,” Ryan said at a press conference.

The White House is asking for $1.8 billion in emergency funding for programs including the creation of rapid response teams for local outbreaks of the virus and boosting vaccine research.

Ryan said that lawmakers are still waiting for the formal submission of this request from the administration, adding that Congress would then have to “scrub” the request.

He didn’t say that the House would approve exactly what the White House asked for, and indicated any funding would have to be offset. Figuring out how to pay for the new funding could be an obstacle.

“We offset emergency spending,” Ryan said. 

Ryan said that he had also met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the issue.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday also expressed hope that the funding could pass in a bipartisan way, saying her “read from the Speaker is that [the issue] will be bipartisan, hopefully noncontroversial, as we go forward to meet the president’s request for Zika emergency funding.”

Some Senate Republicans on Tuesday expressed some skepticism about the funding request after a briefing from administration officials. They pointed to repurposing existing funds intended for Ebola as an alternative to approving new money.

However, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Appropriations health subcommittee, sounded more open to the new funding at a hearing with administration health officials on Thursday.

The officials argued that the Ebola funding has already been committed, and said that they now have to take money away from research on other diseases to fund Zika research because no new funds had been appropriated yet.

“For me, as a member of this committee, knowing that you’re changing other priorities to meet this one, helps us make the case that clearly this is something that is an immediate priority, as opposed to some long-term thing that would be wonderful to do but doesn’t have the same immediacy,” Blunt said.

Some House Republicans have raised concerns that some of the new funds could be used for abortions, given the link between the virus and birth defects in children, but officials have said the funds will not be used for abortions.

Blunt also made clear that it could be a few weeks before the new funding can get through Congress. Likewise, Ryan said that the House would wait to move until after an all-member briefing on the virus. He did not say when that will be.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who oversees health funding for the House Appropriations Committee, said he believes most Republicans will support extra dollars to fight Zika. For now, he said members are just waiting on a dollar-by-dollar breakdown of the administration’s request.

“I have no doubt that it’s a very serious situation and I think Congress does need to sit down and work with the administration and react quickly, and I think that’s a very common sentiment,” he said. “I talked with Secretary Burwell on Super Bowl Sunday, so you know it was serious.”

This story was updated at 5:27 p.m.

Tags Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Roy Blunt
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video