Senate Dems to force vote on Zika funding

Cameron Lancaster

Senate Democrats will try to force a vote next week on nearly $2 billion to bolster the national response to the Zika virus.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at a press conference Thursday he will dig in on Zika funding as GOP leaders in both chambers work on hammering out a compromise.

“We’re going to push forward next week and force the Republicans to vote again against full funding for Zika virus,” Reid said.

“We’re not going to stop talking about it until we get some money. Now. Not at the end of the year on some appropriations bill. We should do it right now,” he added.

{mosads}President Obama has requested $1.9 billion for a national and global response to the mosquito-borne virus. Both the House and Senate have approved funding packages that fall short of that request, though the two bills are different in terms of size, timing and how they offset their costs.

The Senate’s $1.1 billion package is broadly bipartisan, while the House’s $622 million bill faces a veto threat from the White House.

GOP lawmakers agreed last week to begin talks to merge the two bills, but failed to do so before leaving for the Memorial Day weekend, drawing a sharp rebuke from Democrats.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who was the Senate Democrats’ lead negotiator on Zika funding, last tried to force a vote on May 24, just before the chamber left for recess.

Now, Reid said he is planning to do so again as pressure mounts among state and local health departments. He said his staff had a meeting earlier on Thursday about the increasingly urgent Zika situation.

About 300 pregnant women in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Zika, which is known to cause birth defects. The virus is already spreading in Puerto Rico, and is expected to reach the continental U.S. sometime this month.

Earlier this week, a Zika-infected infant was born with the severe birth defect called microcephaly, which prevents babies’ brains from fully developing.

“American people are afraid of the Zika virus, as they should be, and Republicans need to give some money so we can have a vaccine to stop these poor little babies from being born with small brains,” Reid said.

Tags Harry Reid Patty Murray

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