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 CochranTop 5 races to watch in 2019 Bottom Line Races Dems narrowly lost show party needs to return to Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy 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 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.), who has worked closely with Sens. 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.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Warren: Officials have duty ‘to invoke 25th amendment’ if they think Trump is unfit MORE (R-S.C.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLeahy endorses Sanders for president ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire How the border deal came together 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 MikulskiBottom Line Listen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi to reclaim Speakership amid shutdown 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.