Senate Dems accuse GOP of walking away from Zika deal

Senate Dems accuse GOP of walking away from Zika deal
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats warned Wednesday that the tentative bipartisan deal to fund the fight against the Zika virus is on the verge of collapse after top Republicans went quiet in talks this week.

The lead negotiator on the funding package, Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised Senate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades MORE (D-Wash.), said she had not heard from her GOP counterparts on the Senate Appropriations Committee in about a week. She said that radio silence comes after multiple promising conversations about a funding deal.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I was hopeful that we could make progress. But it has been nearly a week since we had those conversations,” Murray told reporters Wednesday.

“It is clear that those Republicans interested in working with us have been beaten back by the extreme right wing who don’t want to do anything at all,” she said.

The funding package, expected to be about $1.1 billion, was being negotiated largely between Murray and her health appropriations counterpart, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntIt's time to make access to quality kidney care accessible and equitable for all Hartzler pulls in 6,000 for Missouri Senate bid with .65M on hand McConnell gets GOP wake-up call MORE (R-Mo.), as well as the chairman and ranking member of the full Senate Appropriations Committee.

But there have been no meetings or calls from Blunt or Chairman Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Miss.) about moving the package forward, a Democratic aide said Wednesday.

Cochran had said last week that the funding package for Zika would reach a floor vote “in the near future.” But the Senate’s moves have been seen as stepping over House Republicans, whose appropriations committee was locked in a battle with the White House over how much money was actually needed.

Earlier on Wednesday, a top House Democrat said she would refuse to consider the Senate's package if it came below President Obama's official request of $1.9 billion. 

Rep. Nita Lowey (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].”

When asked about the amount of money in the Senate package on Wednesday, Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) reminded reporters that Republicans were in the majority and did not rule out supporting a bill with less than $1.9 billion.