Senate GOP hardening stance against emergency funding for Zika

Senate GOP hardening stance against emergency funding for Zika

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 Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The No. 2 Senate Republican dismissed a motion from Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster 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 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.) 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 BluntGOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying MORE (R-Mo.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates 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 RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday 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.