Senate Republican leaders are hardening their stance against emergency funding for the Zika virus, just one week after prominent GOP lawmakers signaled a funding package was on its way.
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas) dismissed President Obama's $1.9 billion funding request as a "blank check" that would allow him to divert funds to agencies outside of the Zika virus efforts, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
The No. 2 Senate Republican dismissed a motion from Senate 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.) to force a vote on approving new funding to fight the Zika virus. Reid wanted to attach the amendment to a House highway bill.
Cornyn flatly rejected Obama’s $1.9 billion funding request and signaled that he was opposed to any other new funding that did not go through the regular appropriations process. If Congress passes an emergency funding bill, it would not need to be offset under current law. But that approach has drawn sharp scrutiny from fiscal hawks.
“It’s emergency spending, it's deficit spending. It completely lacks any kind of accountability," Cornyn said.
Cornyn's remarks appear to be a shift within the Senate GOP from just last week, when Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Miss.) said a short-term funding bill would reach the floor “in the near future.”
It's further proof that Congress’s only promising effort to boost funding to fight the Zika virus may be coming apart.
That package — reportedly $1.1 billion — was negotiated by health appropriations leaders Sens. 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.) and 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.).
Democrats, including Murray, held a press conference Wednesday to accuse Republicans of dropping out of the talks.
“I was hopeful that we could make progress. But it has been nearly a week since we had those conversations,” Murray told reporters.
Contrasting that account, Blunt said on the Senate floor Thursday that he had been in conversations with House GOP leaders as recently as Wednesday.
House GOP leaders have also raised concerns with emergency funding, though Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.) said Thursday he is not ruling out any options.
Ryan will lead a policy meeting with the House GOP conference Friday morning, and Zika funding is expected to be on the agenda. Federal health officials have urged Congress to approve the funding by Memorial Day, just before the mosquito-borne virus is expected to begin spreading in the U.S.