GOP chairman: Senate to vote on Zika funding in 'near future'

GOP chairman: Senate to vote on Zika funding in 'near future'
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The Senate Appropriations Committee is planning to bring a major funding package for fighting the Zika virus to the floor of the Senate “in the near future,” its chairman said Thursday.

Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Miss.) confirmed for the first time Thursday that committee members from both parties have been quietly working on an emergency funding bill to meet at least some of President Obama’s request on the Zika virus.

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The move would break a months-long gridlock between the White House and GOP leaders, who have accused federal officials of failing to provide a detailed breakdown of their funding needs.

In the committee markup on Thursday, Cochran did not say how much money would be included in the supplemental Zika funding bill.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRoy Blunt has helped forge and fortify the shared bonds between Australia and America The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B MORE (R-Mo.), who has worked closely with Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBuilding strong public health capacity across the US Texas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill MORE (D-Wash.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles MORE (R-S.C.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Vt.) on the funding package, said there “has never been a debate” on whether the Senate would provide more money — just how much.  

“I believe we’re closing in on a number that’s the right number,” Blunt said Thursday.

Cochran said it would be likely attached to a vote on the Senate floor in the coming days, which could mean the annual appropriations bills for commerce, justice, science, or military construction and veterans' affairs. Both are expected to reach the Senate floor this month.

Cochran, whose state already has a handful of Zika cases, acknowledged the holdup from the administration but made clear that the committee was committed to a public health response. The mosquito-borne virus is known to cause birth defects in infants, and the virus is expected to begin spreading in the U.S. in early June.

“While it has been difficult to obtain the detailed info necessary to thoroughly evaluate the administration's request, we recognize that there is an urgency associated with the threat,” Cochran said, adding, “It's my expectation that this proposal will be offered to an appropriations proposal on the Senate floor in the near future.”

Murray and Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiHarris invites every female senator to dinner next week Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Bottom line MORE (D-Md.), the committee's top Democrat, did not say precisely when they hoped the bill would come up for a floor vote, but insisted it needed to move quickly.

"We are in a race against the clock; we are in a race against the mosquitoes; and right now, I would say mosquitoes are winning," Mikulski said.