Obama to Congress: Give me Zika funding or skip recess

Obama to Congress: Give me Zika funding or skip recess
© WhiteHouse.gov

President Obama said Friday that Congress should not leave for recess until it sends him a bill providing funds to respond to the Zika virus.

“So the bottom line is, Congress needs to get me a bill,” Obama said, according to a pool report. “It needs to get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job. They should not be going off on recess before this is done

"And certainly this has to get done over the course of the next several weeks in order for us to be able to provide confidence to the American people that we're handling this piece of business," he said.

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Both chambers are scheduled to be in Washington next week, but then leave town the following week for a Memorial Day break. 

The White House has pushed for $1.9 billion in funds. Both chambers acted this week, with the Senate approving a bipartisan compromise of $1.1 billion and the House approving $622 million, which Democrats denounced as far too little. 

The chambers are now trying to reconcile their bills, despite significant differences. 

Obama is still pushing for the full $1.9 billion. 

The White House has criticized the House measure for being paid for in part by taking away Ebola funds. 

“All that the House has said is, ‘You can rob Peter to pay Paul,’” Obama said. 

He added that the $1.9 billion was not “from the top of our heads, this was based on public health assessments of all the work that needs to be done.”

The president made the comments after he was briefed in the Oval Office by officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden. 

The CDC said earlier Friday it is monitoring nearly 300 pregnant women with the Zika virus. 

About half — a total of 122 pregnant women — live in Puerto Rico, which has been hit hard by the outbreak.

 
"And understand that this is not something where we can build a wall to prevent -- mosquitoes don't go through Customs," Obama said. "To the extent that we're not handling this thing on the front end, we're going to have bigger problems on the back end."