Democrats file discharge petition on Zika funding bill

Democrats file discharge petition on Zika funding bill
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Top House Democrats are trying to force a vote on a nearly $2 billion spending package to fight the Zika virus this week, signaling a dim outlook for bipartisan talks already underway.

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Democrats said Tuesday they have filed a discharge petition to bring up a Zika funding bill from the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, New York Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweySenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week How the border deal came together MORE.

The last-ditch move comes just three days before Congress leaves town for its Fourth of July recess — a date that public health experts have called a crucial deadline to get resources out to vulnerable states.

Democrats would need support from dozens of Republicans to advance their petition. 

House and Senate lawmakers in both parties met for the first time last week to formally begin talks on merging their respective Zika funding bills. The Senate passed a wide-ranging appropriations bill that includes $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus, while the House passed a $622 million plan that uses funds that were slated for Ebola virus efforts. The White House first called for $1.9 billion in funding in February, though Republicans have said that request is overblown. 

While Lowey said Democrats are “working in good faith” with Republicans on the conference committee, she said there was no sign of an imminent deal. She would not say whether a deal could be reached before the Fourth of July break.

“There's no guarantee that any agreement we reach will pass muster with the conservative elements in the House,” Lowey told reporters Tuesday, citing fiscal hawks in the House that have opposed more spending. “That’s why this discharge petition is so important.”

Lowey’s bill would fully meet President Obama’s $1.9 billion emergency request to boost the nation’s response to the virus, which has been linked to severe birth defects. Democrats would need 218 signatures to bring the bill to the floor — where Lowey said she believes “it would pass.”

“A discharge petition may be the way we can gather both Democrats and Republicans who believe this is the right course of action,” added Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the top Democrat on the appropriations panel dealing with health funding.