GOP leaders working on funding bill for Zika

GOP leaders working on funding bill for Zika
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House GOP leaders are working on a bill to approve more funding for the fight against the Zika virus by the end of the year as they face mounting pressure from the White House.

Rep. Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersHouse Democrats push for resuming aid to Palestinians in spending bill House panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions Democrats take aim at Trump's policies on 2021 funding markups MORE (R-Ky.), the head of the House Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday he would support immediate action through a supplemental funding request, but is waiting on details from the administration.


“We can’t do it without the numbers,” Rogers said at a markup of a military construction spending bill, after House Democrats forced a vote on Zika funding.

Rogers spent several minutes sparring with House Democrats, including ranking member, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), on the Obama administration's nearly $2 billion emergency funding request. He said his staff was working on a supplemental bill in response to Obama's funding request, though not necessarily at that level, which Rogers said was essentially a "slush fund." 

“I personally will contact the administration today,” Lowey said. “I have seen numbers, I don’t understand why there is some lack of connection here.” 

Rogers had made it clear earlier Wednesday that he wanted to know from the White House “precisely what amount they need and for what purpose.”

“We simply can’t get that information,” Rogers said. 

The Obama administration has asked for nearly $2 billion in emergency funding, which would be separate from Congress’s regular appropriations process this fall. Rogers said Wednesday he would be willing to support that option, after arguing for months that health agencies have enough funds for now in the Ebola funding pot.

Another senior House Republican said Wednesday that Congress will need to approve more money to fight Zika beyond the half-billion dollars already transferred from the administration’s Ebola funding pool.

“We do need to do something in the foreseeable future, I would think before the end of the fiscal year,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who oversees health department funding within the Appropriations Committee.

Cole said he’s been in discussions with GOP leaders and federal health officials about a supplemental funding package, which would take place before the fall appropriations process. 

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also said Wednesday he believes Congress will be able to find funding sources this year.

“We all know it needs to be addressed,” Upton said, adding that he has met multiple times with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on the issue.

The Obama administration said it needs nearly $2 billion in emergency funding for its response to the mosquito-borne virus, which has rapidly spread across Central and South America. The disease, linked to severe birth defects in newborns, is expected to spread to 30 states this summer.

- This story was updated at 1:21 p.m.