House Dems dismiss bipartisan Zika effort in Senate

House Dems dismiss bipartisan Zika effort in Senate
© Getty Images

House Democrats plan to reject a bipartisan effort by Senate leaders to boost emergency funding for the Zika virus because it falls short of President Obama’s request, a top lawmaker said Wednesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Congress has an “absolute responsibility” to approve the $1.9 billion requested by the administration in February.

“I think the $1.1 billion is not realistic, and it’s not in play, and we’re not discussing it on the House side,” Lowey told The Hill on Wednesday. “We’re convinced it needs to be $1.9 [billion].”

The House Appropriations Committee has been sharply divided over whether to approve new funding for the Zika virus. Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and other GOP lawmakers have rejected the administration’s request because they said it lacks specifics.

"We’re slowly getting there, staff to staff. But it’s been like pulling a bad tooth," Rogers said Wednesday about working with federal health officials on funding details. 

Lowey and Democrats have warned of growing urgency to meet the request.

"There are more cases occurring every day, and it’s spreading to Florida, Texas, especially in the southern United States," she said.

Democratic leaders in both chambers are aggressively pressuring Republicans: Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) will hold a press briefing with reporters Wednesday afternoon. 

In the upper chamber, Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Trump's sinking polls embolden Democrats to play hardball Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-Wash.), leaders of the health appropriations panel, have been inching toward a deal that would reportedly include $1.1 billion in funding.

Both Reid and Murray have insisted that no deal has been struck and that they are holding out for the full $1.9 billion request.

Republicans in both chambers, who are split about the $1.1 billion package, are also facing increasing urgency from Florida GOP lawmakers like Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick joins CBS News as contributor Trump: Bolton 'was holding me back' on Venezuela MORE and Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Curbelo introduced a bill on Tuesday to immediately move more federal resources to fight Zika virus.

House GOP leaders have been skeptical about the funding request.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE (R-Wis.) told reporters Wednesday he is not ruling out the Senate’s bill, which Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (R-Miss.) has said could come to the floor as soon as this week.

Ryan said “all options are on the table,” but made clear he believes the administration has enough money for the near future.

“The administration has a bit of a track record of over-requesting,” Ryan said. “Don’t forget one thing — there’s money in the pipeline right now.”