McCarthy casts doubt on emergency Zika funding

McCarthy casts doubt on emergency Zika funding
© Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday cast doubt on emergency funding to fight the Zika virus.

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McCarthy told reporters that he prefers to handle the matter through the regular appropriations process, which would mean additional funding would have to wait until the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

“There is enough money there especially to deal with [it] this year,” McCarthy said. “So if we're going through the proper appropriations process this year, it's the best way to handle it, best place to get the answers.”

The White House and congressional Democrats, by contrast, have been pushing for an emergency supplemental bill that would provide new funds for the remainder of this year.

“The suggestion that Republicans are just going to tie Zika funding to a totally inept budget process is also destined to fail.” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday.

In contrast to McCarthy’s comments, Senate Republicans are in talks with Democrats in the upper chamber on a deal for emergency funding.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division MORE (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, said last week that negotiators were closing in on a deal, though it would be short of the administration’s full $1.9 billion request.

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

“The goal here is not to get an emergency supplemental on just any bill but to be sure that we get it on a bill that will get it to the president’s desk,” Blunt added.

McCarthy, as well as House appropriators, said that they still have not received sufficient details on administration plans for spending the funds.

Earnest scoffed at that complaint and said administration officials have provided such data to lawmakers on multiple occasions. 

“Ignorance is not an excuse. They’ve had opportunities to ask their questions. There is ample information that has been provided by the administration."

"And I don’t think their constituents are going to find it an acceptable response when there is a widespread media freakout about the Zika virus that Republicans haven’t acted because they didn’t get their questions answered,” Earnest added.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday ramped up their calls for emergency funding, saying that the Senate should not take a recess next week unless legislation is passed.

- This story was updated at 3:05 p.m.